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New location may need to be found for National Maternity Hospital, says Tánaiste

The Sisters of Charity said it has never been contacted by the Government or the State to discuss purchasing the site.

Image: PA

A NEW LOCATION may need to be found for the National Maternity Hospital, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar has said.

The hospital is currently located at Holles Street in Dublin city centre, but is set to move to Elm Park, where it will be co-located with St Vincent’s Hospital.

During the week, Varadkar flagged concerns over the governance and ownership of the hospital, with the St Vincent’s site owned by religious order the Sisters of Charity.

Asked today if the hospital might need to be moved on, he said: “Of course there is that risk, that’s the reality of the situation.”

Varadkar said the State would be willing to buy the site if the Sisters of Charity are willing to sell.

He added: “This hospital has to be publicly owned and it has to be the case that any obstetric or gynaecological service that’s legal in the State has to be available in that hospital.”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday that “nothing has been signed off”, and that it has always been his view that any new hospital should be owned by the public.

The Sisters of Charity said last year that it would “gift” the land worth €200 million to the State, with ownership being transferred from the order to a new body called St Vincent’s Holdings.

Services would be transferred from Holles Street to the new hospital and share a campus with St Vincent’s Hospital, where one building is still owned by the Sisters of Charity and is leased to St Vincent’s Healthcare Group.

In a statement last night, the Sisters of Charity said it has “never at any point been contacted by Government or the State to discuss purchasing the site”.

“It has not been involved in any way with the appointment of Directors to either to St Vincent’s Holdings CLG (the new company established by St Vincent’s Healthcare Group) or indeed to the existing St Vincent’s Healthcare Group Board since it ceased all involvement in 2017,” the statement added.

Labour Senator Ivana Bacik says that all correspondence should be published regarding the proposed purchase of the site for clarity on the matter.

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“We need to get an understanding of what offers were made and where issues arose. We need to end this ‘he said she said’ surmising and get answers,” said Bacik. 

“Unless this hospital is built on State-owned land, concerns remain that a Catholic religious ethos will hold influence over the healthcare that the hospital will offer to women. The new maternity hospital should have a secular charter, unfettered by any religious doctrine.” 

Planning permission for the hospital was submitted in 2017, with plans including five operating theatres; 50 neonatal intensive care and special care single cot rooms; 24 delivery rooms; emergency and out-patient departments; ultrasound facilities; and single in-patient rooms.

A rally is being held outside the Dáil next Saturday by women’s rights activists who are calling on the government to ensure there is no religious influence over the new hospital.

- With reporting from Christina Finn and PA

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Adam Daly

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