Top doctor hits out at hospital as religious row grows

The row between the National Maternity Hospital and St Vincent’s Hospital over their co-location plans has deepened after a top obstetrician said the latter’s insistence on giving its Catholic-ethos board control over its new neighbour made no sense.

Dr Peter Boylan said there is now a concern that the move by the NMH from its overcrowded and outdated building on Holles St to new facilities on the St Vincent’s campus in south Dublin would not go ahead.

Dr Boylan is a consultant at the NMH, a former master of the hospital, and current chair of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists of Ireland.

He has not been involved in talks between the sides but said: “One would hope that mediation and common sense would prevail. There is no reason why some compromise couldn’t be reached by reasonable people.”

Dr Boylan also made it clear that St Vincent’s would need to make the biggest concession by allowing the NMH retain its own board, separate from that of St Vincent’s, which is answerable to the Religious Sisters of Charity.

“I don’t understand why the Sisters of Charity want to retain control [of the NMH]. That would pose an awful lot of problems from an ethical point of view in terms of maternity care,” Dr Boylan told RTÉ radio.

“There are serious challenges when it comes to tubal ligation (sterilisation), IVF services, abortion, gender reassignment, etc. None of these are allowed in Catholic controlled hospitals.”

Dr Boylan dismissed claims by St Vincent’s that the NMH would have clinical independence even under a St Vincent’s board.

“That doesn’t stack up with the proposed governance structure. At the moment, despite what’s being said, you can’t do a tubal ligation in St Vincent’s.”

A spokesperson for St Vincent’s said its position remains the same as detailed in a letter sent to the Department of Health last Friday in which the board said it was “dismayed and extremely offended” by the comments of NMH representatives.

The letter states that the offer of space on the St Vincent’s campus remains open “for the time being”.

It states: “It seems pointless and futile in present circumstances to engage in meetings on detailed project planning in a situation where we are making no progress whatsoever on campus governance.”

The letter, signed by board chairman James Menton, states the belief that a “substantial number” of NMH consultants back St Vincent’s stance — although Dr Boylan’s intervention on behalf of the Institute appears to challenge that claim.

Mr Menton said in his letter that the board is open to talks with the Department of Health on suggested solutions to the impasse.

However, the Department of Health said yesterday that it had already made “strenuous efforts to mediate a resolution”.

The project is ready to go for planning permission but an application will not be lodged before governance structures are agreed.

The NMH said last night it was committed to resolving the row.


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