The National Maternity Hospital

 

Sir, – Not since John B Keane’s The Field have I seen such acrimony over a plot of land as I’ve seen in relation to ownership of the land on St Vincent’s University Hospital campus earmarked for the new National Maternity Hospital. It’s time to end the histrionics and give the land to the State for the sake of women and babies. – Yours, etc,

CHRIS FITZPATRICK,

Dublin 6.

Sir, – In a democratic republic, the State should own and directly run the national maternity hospital. It should not cede control over this essential public service to any private body, never mind to a charity associated with the Catholic Church, which has an appalling record of human rights abuses and an ethos that opposes reproductive rights for women.

Atheist Ireland campaigns for a secular healthcare system based on compassion, human rights and the medical needs of patients. No religious values should be imposed on patients who do not share those religious beliefs. The State should remove, not reinforce, the traditional privileges that religious bodies have in our healthcare provision.

Atheist Ireland also lobbies politicians of all parties for a secular education system. They all assure us that, if they were starting from scratch, they would not have given the Catholic Church the influence that it has over our education system. So why are they actively doing the same thing while spending €800 million on our National Maternity Hospital?

If the Government accepts a 99-year lease on the land that the hospital is built on, it would be knowingly passing this problem down to future generations. The politicians of the next century could then assure their constituents that, if they were starting from scratch, they would not have given the Catholic Church this influence over the maternity hospital.

Scandalously, the Government is spending €800 million of public money on a project that requires the Sisters of Charity to obtain permission from the Vatican to agree to it. The Vatican is the headquarters of a global religion that poses as a quasi-state when it suits its purposes. Its primary aim is not to provide healthcare, but to evangelise people into Catholicism.

The Vatican has Guidelines for the Administration of Assets in Institutes of Consecrated Life which state that: “The field of economics is a means of missionary activity for the church . . . [These assets] are ecclesiastical assets . . . Through financial transactions, vital choices are made which should reflect the evangelical witness . . . The ultimate responsibility for administrative, economic, or financial decisions can never be handed over to members of the laity or to those of other Institutes.”

The Vatican has a Charter for Healthcare Workers, which states that: “Healthcare workers should be given a solid ethico-religious formation, which promotes in them an appreciation of human and Christian values and refines their moral conscience. There is need to develop in them an authentic faith and a true sense of morality, in a sincere search for a religious relationship with God, in whom all ideals of goodness and truth are based.”

Recent referendums on marriage equality, abortion, and blasphemy have shown a consistent majority in favour of secular government. Our politicians should heed this message, and the Government should own and directly run the national maternity hospital. – Yours, etc,

MICHAEL NUGENT,

Chairman,

JANE DONNELLY,

Human Rights Officer,

Atheist Ireland,

Dublin 9.

Sir, – The St Vincent’s Group on Tuesday said it is not willing to sell the land for the new hospital to the State because doing so would impact negatively on the integration of services between the National Maternity Hospital and two St Vincent’s hospitals on the co-located site (News, June 22nd).

I wonder can it explain how integration of services can occur so readily on the St James’s Hospital site in Dublin 8?

On that site, the St James’s Hospital Board (an independent statutory body) leases land from the HSE and runs the main hospital, the St Luke’s Radiation Oncology Network runs a separate institution on the same site, the HSE runs the Jonathan Swift Approved Psychiatric centre, and Children’s Health Ireland is developing the new National Paediatric Hospital. It is to be hoped that the Coombe Women and Infants University hospital (a voluntary hospital with a self-replicating board) will also provide integrated services on that site in the fullness of time.

Without breaching confidence, I can say that when I was medical director at St James’s Hospital, issues covered by the Protection of Life during Pregnancy Act 2013 needed discussion between clinicians from several of these entities, with no problem ensuring the right decisions were made in a timely fashion.

Methinks St Vincent’s doth protest too much. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK K PLUNKETT,

Retired Medical Director,

St James’s Hospital,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – The debacle that is the National Maternity Hospital plan is not the fault of the Catholic Church; the problem rests solely with the inroads private healthcare operators have made into the provision of healthcare. The Taoiseach at every opportunity encouraged for-profit provision of health services to the detriment of the public system. Even during recent elections, despite the pretence that there had been a seismic conversion with promises to deliver a one-tier system, he pledged to expand the National Treatment Purchase Fund, the vehicle used to grow for-profit involvement in healthcare provision. So the fact that a private entity is holding up progress on delivering this hospital should come as no surprise to anyone, least of all Micheál Martin. It is the predictable outcome of his for-profit healthcare policies. What must happen now is the State moves as rapidly as possible to create a healthcare system free of any influence from sectional interests and held under the full ownership, control and management of the State. History tells us that Mr Martin’s heart is not, and never was, in such a project. – Yours, etc,

JIM O’SULLIVAN,

Rathedmond,

Sligo.

Sir, – Sheila Deegan (Letters, June 23rd) is probably right to thank the nuns for all they have contributed to education and medicine over the years. However, this was “contributed” exclusively on their terms, based on their belief system, to the exclusion of any other point of view, ethos or input. There was, and still is, a bill submitted for these services, with little detail offered as to what exactly was, or is, supplied. It was a monopoly, and only now are we getting out from under it. – Yours, etc,

PAT QUINN,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – I’m glad Sheila Deegan is grateful to the Sisters of Mercy who freely gave up their lives to provide her with an education in Belmullet. Free maybe, but not gratis. Each and every one got a salary and pension paid by the State while having all that real-estate lolly on their hands when others had to deal with rents and mortgages. – Yours, etc,

HUGO ANDRÉ

Mac MANUS,

Milan, Italy.

Sir, – One wonders from a moral perspective why the State should have to pay a Catholic religious order for the site of St Vincent’s given the woefully inadequate contributions of the Catholic Church compared to the State contributions to the redress scheme compensations to people abused in Catholic institutions over many decades. A moral balancing of the scales needs to be part of the resolution. The church needs to do what is right. Gift the site to the State for the building of the new National Maternity Hospital. – Yours, etc,

CYNTHIA CARROLL,

Newport,

Co Tipperary.

Sir, – Dr Peter Boylan, who was Master of the National Maternity Hospital for several years, probably has more experience than most of working at the interface between the medical needs of the women of Ireland and the ethos of the Roman Catholic Church. I would appeal to all in Government to listen to his advice. We in Ireland often have a mindset of “It will all be grand”; and it often is “grand” until something happens, and then it is not “grand” at all, and it is too late. It is far better to get things right than to get things quick. – Yours, etc,

LYDIA GILLEN,

Skerries,

Co Dublin.