Sisters of Charity urged to gift National Maternity Hospital site to State

The former master of the Coombe has called on the Sisters of Charity to voluntarily hand over the land where the new national maternity hospital is set to be built to the Government in a bid to end the controversy over the site.

Sisters of Charity urged to gift National Maternity Hospital site to State

Professor Chris Fitzpatrick urged the action “in the national interest” as the master of Holles St, Dr Rhona Mahony, insisted that concerns of alleged religious interference in the new hospital are a “sideshow” that risks blocking the facility from being developed.

Speaking on RTÉ radio, Prof Fitzpatrick said the only way to resolve widespread concerns over the new hospital is for the land to be sold to the State.

He said the Government must consider offering to buy the site and that the Sisters of Charity should consider gifting it, as the current situation risks causing severe governance problems in the future and is akin to a “forced marriage” unlikely to work.

“I think it’s not unreasonable, given what has happened, they [the Sisters of Charity] could relinquish ownership,” he said.

“There are questions that need to be asked about ownership. In 5, 10, 15 years’ time, there may be a conflict of interest... Perhaps the solution, and it’s not capitulation, is that St Vincent’s Healthcare Group and the nuns, in the national interest, [should hand over or sell the site].”

Prof Fitzpatrick was speaking after Dr Mahony insisted concerns of alleged religious interference in the new hospital are a “sideshow”.

“The agreement is unequivocal, it’s black and white. The nuns will not be involved in running the hospital,” she said.

Dr Mahony said if there is a need to terminate a pregnancy due to a risk to the mother’s life, or to sterilise a patient at the new hospital, this will be done “without hesitation”.

She said the Sisters of Charity’s involvement will have no impact on what decisions are made.

She rejected concerns the nine-member board of the new hospital could, in the future, become biased in favour of the religious order as it has four members and a role in appointing the ninth independent person.

Dr Mahony again stressed that the new national maternity hospital would be “independent”.

“We are practising 21st-century medicine in a building that is crumbling. It [the new hospital] is going to represent a huge shift upwards in the standard of care, and nothing should get in the way of that, particularly misrepresentation or sideshows,” said Dr Mahony.

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