The National Maternity Hospital

Sir, – Your correspondent (Dr Peter Boylan, Letters, July 17th) has rightly drawn attention to the prohibitions contained in the ethical code of the Religious Sisters of Charity (RSC), which include (but may not be limited to) direct abortion, direct sterilisation and IVF. This code is enforced in Vincent's hospitals via nursing contracts published on the internet. No wonder there is "growing disquiet" among NMH governors about "the handling of tricky questions" (News, July 20th).

The RSC and their lay representatives, St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, have spent eight years trying to enforce their terms on the State relating to the provision of a new maternity hospital at St Vincent’s. They insist on owning the land at Elm Park and the Minister for Health seems minded to acquiesce with this red line. Unfortunately, with ownership comes ethics, a fact that no assurances can gainsay. The lease the RSC/SVHG have offered the Government is the equivalent of an ethical straitjacket, because it is conditional on the granting of an exclusive operating licence back to themselves.

From a governance perspective, the licence vitiates the lease, because it ensures that the State will have no meaningful role in the operation of the new facility. Meanwhile we, the public, are supposed to be content to pay €800 million to build ––and gift – the new facility to a private Catholic company, and to pay the running and maintenance costs thereafter in perpetuity. This arrangement does not have the support of the electorate. Serious disquiet was expressed by every TD and Senator, including all three Government parties, who quizzed the Minister at last week’s Health Committee meeting. The SVHG does not need to produce data on the number of procedures prohibited by the RSC which are carried out in their hospitals: they are in the driving seat, just as the congregation has been all along, facilitated by a cap-in-hand State. – Yours, etc,



Dublin 7.