Letter to the Editor: Maternity hospital must go to the State

Letter to the Editor: Maternity hospital must go to the State

Dr Peter Boylan (November 14) has reopened the debate on the new ‘National Maternity Hospital’.

Three years after the Mulvey Report on a project first mooted in 2008, the morass has deepened. The Religious Sisters of Charity still own the land, which they hope to transfer to a new company.

Substantive building will not commence, according to the Government, until the Vatican signs off on the deal.

Papal approval of this land transfer for purposes prohibited in canon law, such as the provision of abortion services, is unlikely to be forthcoming, however. Even if it were, the provision of such services by private companies cannot legally be guaranteed.

The key players here (excluding the State) are private Catholic entities. The nuns, who own St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, plan to transfer ownership of their assets, including their hospitals, to ‘St Vincent’s’, the new company. SVHG, which will continue to manage the hospitals, is setting up the new entity, which will be a wholly owned subsidiary of itself.

So, the new NMH will not be autonomous: wholly owned subsidiaries are controlled by their parent companies. Further, an SVHG nominee is to chair the new NMH board on a rotating three-year basis; and the master of the maternity hospital will report to SVHG’s clinical director.

The current SVHG chairman, acongregational appointee, has confirmed that the nuns’s ethos will continue to prevail in SVHG hospitals. SVHG filings for 2017 show that future directors of St Vincent’s will be legally obliged to uphold ‘the values and the vision’ of Mother Mary Aikenhead, the congregation’s founder. Those values are Catholic and pro-life, as might be expected.

NMH, itself a private Catholic entity, is legally under diocesan governance. While Archbishop Martinhas stepped back from his role as chairman of the company, it will be open to his successor to take up this legal role and/or enforce the ethical code for healthcare published in 2018 by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

The code, as one would expect, prohibits abortion and other services.

The focus on Rome has obscured these crucial issues. Even the proposed leasing arrangement, under which St Vincent’s is to let the land to the State, is deeply problematic.

Setting aside the (obvious) point that landlords may set their own terms (no abortion or other prohibited services, for example), the projected 99-year lease is grossly inadequate.

The conclusion, that the State should own the land on which it plans to build this new 244-bed hospital, is inescapable.

One final point: the new hospital as designed does not meet the EU near zero energy building standards (nZEB) that have just come into force. Commencement contracts were rushed through last December to enable the EU directive to be bypassed.

The looming deadline for the completion of substantial works (January 1, 2020) cannot now be met, making it unlikely that the new NMH can be built under the old regulations.

This suggests that the plans will have to be extensively revised, or else the new hospital will need to be retrofitted — at enormous cost.

Thanks to the inordinate delays, the 2013 estimate of €100m has ballooned, just like the National Children’s Hospital. The new NMH is now expected to cost well north of €500m.

Taxpayers are still expected to foot the bill.

The clinical governance of the new hospital is clearly a minefield that will undoubtedly become a battlefield over reproductive and other health services in the coming years.

Should such services be provided, which seems unlikely, a successful judicial review could result in their termination.

To gift the new maternity hospital, as planned, to the Religious Sisters of Charity under these circumstances would be farcical.

If protecting women’s healthcare is a priority, the State needs to steer the ship by taking ownership and control of the new national maternity hospital. He who pays the piper, etc.

Jo Tully Chair, Campaign Against Church Ownership of Women’s Healthcare, Krysia Lynch, chair, Association forImprovements in the Maternity Services Ireland (AIMS Ireland) Ailbhe Smyth, convenor, Coalition to Repeal the 8th Amendment, Linda Connolly, professor of sociology, Maynooth University, Therese Caherty, ICTU Women’sCommittee Member Liam Herrick.director, Irish Council for Civil Liberties, Mary McAuliffe, assistant professor, Gender Studies, UCD, John Douglas, general secretary, Mandate Trade Union, Ciara Considine, Midwives for Choice, Cliona Saidlear, executive director, Rape Crisis Network Ireland, Maire O’Connor, chair, Survivors of Symphysiotomy, Helen Guinane, Parents for Choice,Orla O’Connor, NWCI.

We must speak out against criminality

I wish to offer congratulations to Fr Oliver O’Reilly on his bravery and honesty in speaking out regarding the conduct of those responsible for the brutal assault on Mr Lunney and continued threats to Quinn Industrial Holdings executive.

I am a bit confused on learning that Sean Quinn has written to a number of the Vatican hierarchy regarding Fr O’Reilly’s homily.

I don’t believe Fr O’Reilly mentioned Mr Quinn and I wonder what he found objectionable in the homily.

I am sure that Fr O’Reilly was expressing the opinion of the majority of law-abiding citizens of the Ballyconnell area and indeed the country as a whole.

People have become afraid to speak out on criminality and thuggery through fear of the vocal minority.

It brings to mind the expression regarding such behaviour “For evil to flourish, it is only necessary for the good people to remain silent”.

It is refreshing that the Catholic clergy has spoken out in support of Fr O’Reilly.

Tony Fagan

Enniscorthy

Co Wexford

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