Statement by Minister for Health Simon Harris ‘setting out key safeguards for planned development of the new National Maternity Hospital’, issued no Friday, April 21st, 2017.
“The delivery of a new National Maternity hospital is important for the people of Co Wicklow and women and infants throughout the country. Mothers throughout the county currently travel to the NMH Holles Street to have their babies and then use St Vincents for any care their family needs after that as our closest acute hospital. A National Maternity Hospital that is fit to provide the best possible care for mothers and babies is a priority for me and co-location is key to this.
The new National Maternity Hospital will be a significant investment in the provision of modern, state of the art healthcare for women and babies. However I have heard legitimate questions and opinions in recent days and I want to assure people that I am absolutely determined that, before this project proceeds beyond the planning permission phase, three key criteria must be in place :
1 This new hospital must be developed in line with best international practice for maternity hospitals and be co-located with an adult acute hospital in order to ensure that women and infants have access to a full range of medical specialties.
2 The hospital must have clinical, operational and financial independence, with no question of religious interference and with a role for the Minister for Health of the day to guarantee this. This will ensure all relevant health services legally available in the Irish public health service must and will be available in this hospital.
3 The State’s financial and public health interest in this hospital must be fully protected. No private entity or religious order can profit in any way. The building can only be used for the defined purpose of providing public maternity, gynaecological and neonatal services. Robust contractual arrangements must be put in place to make sure that this is a reality.
Today I met the Director General of the HSE on this matter and have requested that before any contracts are entered into, these three criteria must be satisfied in full. I have also formally written to the HSE on this matter. I expect all of these issues to be addressed as part of the detailed contractual arrangements which will be put in place in advance of construction investment. In all such cases, where the HSE undertake capital development, legal mechanisms are put in place to ensure that the State’s investment is protected and that the facilities are secured for the continued use of public patients. This must and will be the case in relation to the new Maternity Hospital.
Questions have been raised about financial benefits to the Sisters of Charity due to the maternity hospital being developed on their campus. The opposite is the case. The St Vincent’s Healthcare Group is making available very valuable land at no cost to the State, to facilitate the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital. In doing so, they have foregone the opportunity to put this land to alternative use.
Let me very clear: there will be no financial gain to any religious order from the development of this hospital. Legal arrangements will be put in place which will 100% protect the State’s investment and interest in the new hospital.
I have heard people say that nuns will be running the hospital. Not true. I have heard that nuns have been gifted the hospital. Not true. I have heard people talk about nuns and redress. Redress is extremely important and I have previously said that the religious orders must step up to the mark and pay what is long overdue. However I think it is wrong to conflate redress with the decision to build the desperately needed new maternity hospital.
We need to provide a new National Maternity Hospital. The current buildings are no longer fit for purpose. We need to provide modern healthcare facilities for the women and infants of Ireland. We will protect the Mastership model. We need to ensure patients attending the National Maternity Hospital have immediate access to theatres, high dependency and intensive care provision in an acute adult hospital if the need arises. That is what I intend to do, while absolutely protecting, public health policy, taxpayers’ money and the State.
This is an agreement reached between two voluntary hospitals however it is only the beginning of the process. There is now a significant body of work to be completed nby the HSE in order to ensure that we are happy with the plans for this hospital. ”