Maternity hospital ‘looking at other sites’

The war of words in the National Maternity Hospital row grew more entrenched over the weekend, as both sides accused the other of peddling mistruths.

It also emerged that the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) has begun examining alternative sites to the St Vincent’s Hospital Group site in Ballsbridge including the Beacon Hospital, Cherrywood, and Merrion Rd.

The group’s chairman, James Menton, informed the Department of Health it would continue its dealings on the proposed development with the department, but would not meet with the joint project committee, describing it as “futile and pointless”.

Mr Menton also said that the offer from SVHG to house the new National Maternity Hospital “remains on the table for the time being”.

He was harshly critical of the NMH in a Sunday newspaper, accusing them of trying to “string us along” and “embarrass us” into signing the planning permission.

A mediator was brought in between both sides when an impasse arose over SVHG’s refusal to allow the project go to An Bord Pleanála until it receives a commitment the NMH will come under its corporate governance. The NMH has pointly refused to cede its control to SVHG.

Health Minister Leo Varadkar has said he supports both hospitals retaining their corporate independence, as it is a “sound governance model”. However, he can not intervene as while both hospitals receive HSE funding, they are privately owned with their own voluntary board.

Under plans proposed by St Vincent’s, the NMH would have two to three directors on the St Vincent’s board, a chief executive, and a master, but there would be a clinical oversight committee and the master would not sit on it. St Vincent’s argues the maternity hospital would have full clinical autonomy, but it does not like the master model where one person is both clinical director and CEO. SVHG also warned that there can not be two separate boards if both hospitals are to function effectively on the one site, but NMH wants to stay independent.

Former master of the NMH and chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Peter Boylan, sits on the board of the NMH.

He has warned that, as a Catholic Church-controlled hospital, there could be potential problems providing elective vasectomies and tubal ligations, IVF, and gender reassignment treatment to patients at the NMH.

A retired civil servant was hired to chair mediation talks which halted in advance of the general election and need to re-commence after a new minister for health is appointed.

Acting chief executive of St Vincent’s, Michael Keane, added there “would be absolutely no issue with staff carrying out procedure that they are doing now,” such as IVF, sterilisation etc.

Meanwhile, Mr Menton warned that SVHG did not suddenly change their stance on governance.

“The board had made this a condition since the very beginning,” said Mr Menton, as a single system is needed for the project to be effective .

In contrast, the NMH say they were first told of the plan in 2014.


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