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National Maternity Hospital doctors concerned 'misinformation' could delay relocation project

Campaigners say the clinicians are “overly optimistic” about governance concerns.

A GROUP OF senior clinicians at the National Maternity Hospital have signed a letter expressing concern that “misinformation” and “misunderstanding” around the planned relocation of the hospital could delay the project.

The consultants say that all procedures that are currently available at the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) on Holles Street will remain available should the hospital move to the St Vincent’s campus in Dublin 4.

“We, the consultants of the National Maternity Hospital, are concerned by the potential for misinformation and misunderstanding to delay a vital project to create a world-class maternity hospital for the women and babies of Ireland,” says the letter, which was published in today’s Irish Times.

The letter was co-signed by 42 clinicians including the NMH’s current master, Shane Higgins, and three former masters. 

“The misinformation that services at the new maternity hospital will be curtailed by any religious ethos is particularly troubling given its inaccuracy,” the letter adds.

A cast-iron guarantee in this regard is included in the proposed operating licence to be granted by the Department of Health for the new hospital, and we would not allow the project to proceed without this in place.

Responding to today’s letter, the Campaign Against Church Ownership of Women’s Healthcare say the clinicians are “overly optimistic” because they will no longer have the same level of control within the new entity.

“The way Holles Street is now and the way Holles Street is run will no longer be the way it can be run,” campaign spokesperson, and Green Party councillor, Donna Cooney told The Journal.

They will not have the clinical independence they now have, within this new hospital, and that is the main concern.

“The procedures and the things that they can do in Holles Street, they will not be able to do with this new entity. They (the clinicians who signed the letter) seem to be not completely clear on that,” Cooney added.

The campaign group held a rally outside Leinster House over the weekend. It says it is essential that the State owns the land that the new facility is built on.

The relocation of the National Maternity Hospital to the St Vincent’s site has been the source of considerable controversy.

The State wants to buy the land, however St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) says it must retain ownership of the site.

The land is owned by the Sisters of Charity religious order. In 2017, the order announced that they would transfer their shares to a newly formed company with charitable status called St Vincent’s Holdings (CLG). It has proposed a 99-year lease and then a 50-year extension. 

Taoiseach Micheál Martin said yesterday he had concerns around governance arrangements for the hospital and that there could be no semblance, or even perception, of religious influence in it.

“I do have an issue with the governance, and I do think the public interest has to be represented more on the board. They are very fundamental issues, the taxpayer is paying for this, that needs to be reflected in terms of governance structures,” he told RTÉ’s The Week in Politics.

Last week, health minister Stephen Donnelly said he would prefer the land the hospital sits on to be publicly owned, but added that public ownership is not a prerequisite to clinical independence.

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