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'Two fingers to the Irish people': Taoiseach urged to nationalise entire St Vincent's campus if healthcare group refuses to budge on ownership

The hospital group has insisted that it will not sell the land on the Elm Park campus.

File photo.
File photo.
Image: RollingNews.ie

THE GOVERNMENT SHOULD move to nationalise the entire St Vincent’s Hospital campus if St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) does not roll back on its position that it ”must retain ownership” of the Dublin 4 site on which a new National Maternity Hospital will be built.

Labour leader Alan Kelly told the Taoiseach during Leaders Questions today that the statement from group last night was “insulting” and said the government needed to stand up to “bullies”.

He said the statement was “two fingers” to the government and the Irish people. 

SVHG released a statement yesterday in which it said it must retain the ownership, but said that “for the avoidance of doubt” the new NMH “will be clinically independent”. 

SVHG operates St Vincent’s Private Hospital on an adjoining site and says that retaining ownership of the maternity hospital site would allow “the delivery of integrated patient care”.  

What is needed now is leverage, Kelly told the Dáil today, who called on the Taoiseach to compulsory purchase order (CPO) the whole site – public, private and maternity.

He said the Labour Party would support such a move. 

The Taoiseach said the government “won’t rule anything out” – but added that issuing a CPO for the land, or the entire complex, could run the risk of collapsing the entire project.

Micheál Martin said the group’s statement yesterday was “not an appropriate response at all”. 

“A hospital that the State builds, is a hospital the State should own,” he said.

‘The investment that the State would make in this hospital would be very, very significant, very significant in terms of the hundreds of millions that could be spent here, and that investment needs to be protected,” said Martin, who called on the board to reflect on the situation and what is in the public interest.

“This is an important moment as it sends a signal to other developments,” the Taoiseach acknowledged.

The first priority of government is to build a first-class maternity hospital that is co-located, said the Taoiseach.

Sinn Féin’s Mary Lou McDonald said the “mess” with the new National Maternity Hospital “goes way back” and “needs to be urgently sorted”.

Speaking earlier this morning, Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said that he will meet representatives from SVHG, stating that the hospital group’s statement yesterday, that the land on the Elm Park Campus is not for sale, has not been helpful.

“I don’t think that is a helpful thing for them to be doing. And I think they should be cognisant and have a bit more respect for the people of Ireland, who fund their hospital,” the health minister told Morning Ireland on RTÉ Radio 1.

I don’t think that’s the way to do business. These conversations need to be held and they need to be held respectfully.

Donnelly said that he will meet representatives of SVHG, but did not say when the meeting will take place. In its statement yesterday, the group said it was “more than willing” to meet the government to discuss the relocation of the hospital from Holles Street.

The health minister outlined that the government’s position is that “the women of Ireland want to own the land that their own maternity hospital is built on”.

“I would very much like to see that facilitated and I think it would be in everyone’s interest if that was facilitated,” he said.

The comments came ahead of a Dáil debate on the ownership of the hospital and the site on which it will sit. 

The Social Democrats tabled a motion calling for the new hospital to be fully publicly owned. The government is not opposing the motion.

It said that “for the avoidance of doubt” the new National Maternity Hospital “will be clinically independent”. 

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Donnelly said today that there’s no resolution to the dispute that gives any of the stakeholders exactly what they want.

He said using a compulsory purchase order, which has been mooted by several opposition TDs, is not desirable because it would involve a lengthy legal process.

“That is not a route that resolves any problems quickly. You’re going to end up in court for years through a compulsory purchase order,” Donnelly said.

In the Dáil today, the health minister reiterated that he would prefer the land the National Maternity Hospital sits on to be publicly owned, but added that public ownership is not a prerequisite to clinical independence.

About the author:

Céimin Burke

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