The National Maternity Hospital – a controversial gift

 

Sir, – Following the 2012 Health Information and Quality Authority (Hiqa) inquiry into Tallaght Hospital, national guidelines were issued surrounding good governance at all hospital boards. The HSE was tasked with ensuring that all hospitals complied.

These guidelines stated that “Boards should be of a sufficient size (up to a maximum of 12) and expertise to effectively govern the organisation. The board should be selected and appointed through an independent process established by the State and on the basis of having the necessary skills, experience and competencies required to fulfil the role effectively. The board should comprise non-executive directors and a chairperson and, in keeping with good governance, individuals with conflicts of interest, including employees of the hospital and those with other relevant conflicts of interest, should not be appointed to the board.”

It would seem that the first hospital to be established since this report was published has completely ignored all of these recommendations. It is hardly a surprise that another Hiqa report was ignored but it remains a serious disappointment and concern to all patients. – Yours, etc,

TRIONA MURPHY,

Chairwoman,

Tallaght Hospital

Action Group,

Firhouse,

Dublin 24.

Sir, – The Constitution explicitly forbids the State from endowing any religious organisation. On this basis, a High Court challenge to the arrangement would be welcome. – Yours, etc,

JONATHAN HANLEY,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – The words “nuns” and “maternity hospital” in the same sentence are enough to make a body (particularly an Irish female body) shudder.  

They tell us the question is fundamentally one about ownership and control. When it comes to female reproduction in Ireland, has that not always been the problem? – Yours, etc,

MARIA HOEY,

Portmarnock,

Co Dublin.

A chara, – It is surely not long before we will hear the old refrain so beloved of the embattled politician defending the indefensible – “contractual obligations”! – Is mise,

JOSEPH DOYLE,

Thomastown,

Co. Kilkenny.

Sir, – The Sisters of Charity was one of the religious orders that managed residential institutions for children investigated by the Ryan Commission, which revealed horrific and endemic abuse. It is a beneficiary of the 2002 €128 million indemnity agreement with the State. A recent report by the Comptroller & Auditor General said it offered to contribute €5 million to the cost of the redress scheme but only €2 million of has been paid to date. The cost of the scheme to the State (ie us) has been put at €1.5 billion. The order was also involved in the running of the Magdalene laundries. It has not contributed to compensation for the survivors of abuse and has said it will not be doing so. It owns assets worth hundreds of millions of euro. The St Vincent’s Healthcare Group makes annual payments of €2.6 million to it.

In 2017, the Department of Health has announced that it will be the “sole owner” of the new national maternity hospital. Sr Agnes Reynolds, a director of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, when afforded the opportunity to provide reassurance that religious beliefs would not influence the provision of medical care at the new maternity hospital, said, “I can’t make a judgment on that.” Am I missing something or is this not completely wrong? – Yours, etc,

ROB SADLIER,

Rathfarnham,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – Peter Boylan (“New maternity hospital should not be given to Sisters of Charity”, Opinion & Analysis, April 21st) seeks reassurances over the safeguarding of clinical independence for the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH), invoking concerns over ownership passing to the same religious order, the Sisters of Charity, who are the sole shareholders of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group. He states that “modern maternity and gynaecological care encompasses contraception, sterilisation, IVF, gender reassignment surgery and abortion”.

Sterilisation procedures are already permitted at St Vincent’s University Hospital, while the hospital is also an “appropriate institution” as indicated in the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act. Following the deal brokered by mediator Kieran Mulvey, a press release issued by the Department of Health indicated that the new company (as a subsidiary of St.Vincent’s Healthcare Group) established to run the National Maternity Hospital “will have clinical and operational independence in the provision of maternity, gynaecology and neonatal services, as well as financial and budgetary independence”.

St Vincent’s Hospital, presided over by the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, is renowned nationally for its provision of healthcare services to the Irish public over many years, and on its established record, the involvement of the same group in relation to the new National Maternity Hospital ought to be considered to be ultimately beneficial in terms of patient care. – Yours, etc,

Cllr JOHN KENNEDY,

Dún Laoghaire

Rathdown County Council,

County Hall,

Marine Road,

Dún Laoghaire,

Co Dublin.

Sir, – Either the Sisters of Charity are not being truthful about allowing the proposed National Maternity Hospital to carry out procedures which it condemns on ethical grounds, or they are willing to surrender their ethics for a multimillion euro windfall for their order. Either way, these women are not to be trusted. – Yours, etc,

MARY HATCH,

Delta,

British Columbia, Canada.

Sir, – Surely the best way to ensure that there is no interference by a religious order in the running of a hospital is to avoid giving it to a religious order. – Yours, etc,

IAN THOMPSON,

Lélex,

France.

Sir, – The gifting of a hospital, built with public funds, to an order of nuns involved in the Magdalene laundries defies belief. Citizens who disagree with decision this must object, protest, and make their voices heard. If not, then everyone is implicated in this decision, and will have to run to the three wise monkeys for support. – Yours, etc,

INGRID NACHSTERN,

Donnybrook,

Dublin 4.

Sir, – Minister for Health Simon Harris suggests that the public is “wrong to conflate redress with the decision to build the desperately needed new maternity hospital”. On the contrary, Mr Harris is profoundly wrong not to have taken the Sisters of Charity’s flagrant refusal to honour their redress commitments to clerical abuse victims into account. – Yours, etc,

ALAN MURPHY,

Templeogue,

Dublin 6W.

Sir, – The recent controversy regarding the ownership of the new maternity hospital at St Vincent’s raises many issues that merit debate. But a debate should be respectful and focused on the facts rather than one that generates bile, and indulges in bias. It is perfectly reasonable for people to want healthcare, like education, to be provided by different agencies, charitable and State-run. But surely it is reasonable too for various Catholic organisations to play their role like any other charity, once the services offered meet the required quality standards. – Yours, etc,

FRANK BROWNE,

Templeogue,

Dublin 16.

Sir, – I have a nice piece of valuable land in south Co Dublin. I wonder if I offered to have the Department of Health build a health centre on it and staff it, would they give me ownership of the building? I’d happily agree not to impose my views on the staff, or patients. – Yours, etc,

PATRICK K PLUNKETT,

Consultant

in Emergency Medicine,

St James’s Hospital,

Dublin 8.

Sir, – Irish hospitals may need the sites of the religious orders. They do not, however, need their oversight. – Yours, etc,

Dr EVA McDERMOTT,

Glasnevin,

Dublin 11.