New children’s hospital will be secular says Simon Harris

Health Minister Simon Harris has attempted to avoid a repeat of the national maternity hospital fiasco by insisting a new national children’s hospital will be “secular” and completely devoid of any religious control.

At the launch of a group to oversee the development of the long-awaited facility and flanked by chief executives of the existing children’s hospitals, Mr Harris said there will be zero religious involvement in the new facility.

The Government became embroiled in a damaging and drawn-out dispute with the Sisters of Charity religious order earlier this year over its role in the new national maternity hospital.

It led to national protests amid claims the facility should be moved from the campus of St Vincent’s Hospital, and a wider review of the patronage of hospitals across the country.

Asked yesterday about the potential involvement of any religious order in the new national children’s hospital at St James’s in Dublin, due to be built by 2021, Mr Harris said the facility will be “secular”.

“The legislation is very clear: There will be no religious involvement in our hospital, all of the board will be appointed by the minister of the day,” he said.

“This will be a secular hospital and the legislation is clear in relation to that. It’s outlined in the programme for government that this will be a secular hospital, underpinned by legislation.”

The chiefs executive of children’s hospitals at Temple Street, Our Lady’s Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, and the National Children’s Hospital in Tallaght were present. Nobody, including members of the new group overseeing the project, challenged the minister’s comments.

That group will take over the services of the existing three children’s hospitals and operate the new facility when it is built at St James’s Hospital, in addition to planned paediatric outpatient and urgent care centres at Connolly Hospital and Tallaght.

The group will consist of the current and former chairs and vice-chairs of the three existing children’s hospitals: Sean Sheehan, Turlough O’Sullivan, Liam Dowdall, Frank Magee, and Michael Scanlan.

It will also include the chairman of the children’s hospital group board, Dr Jim Browne; the chief executive of the children’s hospital group, Eilish Hardiman; and children’s hospital group board member Catherine Guy.

The new hospital is due to be built by 2021 after decades of delays and disputes over where it should be located.

While there is still vocal opposition from some quarters over the location of the new site in a busy Dublin city area, regularly subjected to traffic problems, Mr Harris yesterday repeated that the decision had already been made to base it at St James’s.


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