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'Nothing signed off' yet on new National Maternity Hospital, says Taoiseach

The Taoiseach says it has always been his view that any new hospital should be owned by the public.

Planning permission for the hospital was submitted in 2017.
Planning permission for the hospital was submitted in 2017.
Image: Sam Boal

Updated Jun 18th 2021, 7:36 PM

TAOISEACH MICHEÁL MARTIN has said that “nothing has been signed off” on, with regards to the proposed new National Maternity Hospital.

The proposed national maternity hospital is earmarked for Elm Park in Dublin on land that has been owned by the Sisters of Charity – but yesterday, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar  said there are “problems, quite frankly, in going forward with this project”.

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.

When asked about the issue this afternoon, the Taoiseach said the new hospital location and its ownership has been a “long running saga”.

He reiterated that it has always been his view that any new hospital should be owned by the public.

Martin told reporters that the health system has evolved in a “very odd way” in that the State has invested “huge monies in hospitals where it doesn’t have ownership and that’s not entirely satisfactory into the future”.

Such a system is “no longer tenable in the modern era”.

The Taoiseach confirmed that the three party leaders have met to discuss the matter, adding that Health Minister Stephen Donnelly continues to engage with various stakeholders about the project.

In an ideal world, if the taxpayer is paying for the new hospital, they should own it, he said, adding that the current situation is “not good”. 

Ultimately, he said many of the stakeholders “need to reflect” on the situation and not be “overly obsessed” with ownership of the hospital.

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

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The organisation said it has not been involved in “any functions or operations of the hospital since 2012 when it stepped down from the Board”.

“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.

Planning permission for the hospital was submitted in 2017.

The plans for the development include 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.

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