Arts Minister Heather Humphreys and minister of state for skills John Halligan said the review was needed with the junior minister saying “there should be no influence on hospitals” and “it is not unfair the Government would have control of our health system”.
As revealed by the Irish Examiner earlier this week, senior Department of Health officials are planning a review of the religious ownership and patronage of hospitals similar to the divestment of schools instigated by former education minister Ruairi Quinn.
While the review suggestion is in its early stages , Mr Harris yesterday publicly confirmed the plan, telling reporters at the new national children’s hospital launch that “in due course I intend to go to government with similar proposals [to Mr Quinn’s patronage review”.
The imminent move is likely to face resistance from religious orders which either own or remain patrons of more than a dozen voluntary hospitals in the public health system, particularly due to the the controversy surrounding the new national maternity hospital.
There are also expected to be concerns raised by the Department of Finance and Department of Public Expenditure over the cost of such a move and the pressure facing the Exchequer if the State took financial responsibility for the facilities.
However, Mr Halligan and Ms Humphreys said they support such a proposal and noted Mr Harris is correct to be considering cutting off any church role in the public health system.
“My view on hospitals is essentially there should be no influence other than medical influence.
“The State would not interfere with the church, would they, so why would any church or organisation interfere with medical ethics,” Mr Halligan said at a Science Foundation Ireland launch.
“It’s not an unfair request for the Department of Health, the minister for health of the day and the Government of the day to have control of our health system,” he said.
Meanwhile, Ms Humphreys similarly said her view was that “clinical decisions should be made by doctors, and I support Mr Harris in his review of this whole area of governance and the role of the church in hospitals”.
Religious-linked hospitals include St Vincent’s, the Mater, Temple Street, Mercy University Hospital, Kerry General, St John’s Hospital in Limerick, Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin, Our Lady’s Hospital in Lourdes in Drogheda, Our Lady’s Hospital in Navan, Portiuncula Hospital, South Infirmary Victoria Hospital Cork, and the Rotunda, among others.