Enda Kenny backs call for ‘breathing space’ to resolve maternity hospital crisis

Taoiseach Enda Kenny has supported Health Minister Simon Harris in his call for “breathing space” to resolve the new national maternity hospital crisis, saying talks are needed to put in place a “legally waterproof situation”.

Enda Kenny backs call for ‘breathing space’ to resolve maternity hospital crisis

Mr Kenny said the resignation of Dr Peter Boylan from the Holles Street board over his criticism of the facility’s location at a Sisters of Charity site was “his own decision” and that the hospital will provide “world class facilities”.

In his first public comments on the crisis, Mr Kenny said Mr Harris is correct to seek a month-long period to hold behind-closed-doors talks with all of the groups involved.

He said this is needed both to calm fears over what may happen at the facility in the future and to ensure there are “clear” guarantees that medics working at the hospital will have their clinical independence enshrined in all cases — and will not be influenced by Catholic doctrine.

“The minister [Mr Harris] has requested breathing space. What we want to do there is put in place a legally waterproof situation where it will be perfectly clear here that there will be proper world-class facilities for expectant mothers and children, and that if issues arise that need hospital treatment they will be on the campus of St Vincent’s.

“The minister will come back to cabinet on that in the next number of weeks, and at that point we can conclude on that and move on to provide the national maternity hospital to the standard that women are entitled to expect in this day and age,” he said.

Asked about the controversial departure of Dr Boylan — who remains a governor member of Holles Street despite resigning from the hospital’s board over the new national maternity hospital site — Mr Kenny said he knows and respects the medic.

The Taoiseach added that “his [Dr Boylan’s] decision is one for himself”.

Speaking at a separate event at the RCPI, Mr Harris — whose spokesperson initially said would not speak to the media — told reporters it is important “we would now have a period of calm”.

“I’ve obviously talked extensively about the national maternity hospital this week, I’ve called for cool heads and I’ve asked them to use the next month, the month of May, to have an opportunity to meet with both hospital boards and to tease through all of the issues.”

He said while he is aware of “public concerns”, he is also conscious of the fact “the public want to build a national maternity hospital”, adding that “the benefits of co-locating on the campus of St Vincent’s are beyond question”.

Mr Harris said he notes the “overwhelming decision” by the Holles Street board to continue to support the location of the new hospital.

Asked about Dr Bolyan’s resignation, Mr Harris described him as “a very distinguished doctor” but that “he has made his decision”.

“I’m not going to get into speculation on ‘he said/she said’, the board made a decision,” he added.

Dr Peter Boylan: Legal structure ’fatally flawed’

Fiachra Ó Cionnaith and Catherine Shanahan

Ousted Holles Street board member Dr Peter Boylan has insisted the new national maternity hospital’s legal structure is “fatally flawed” because the ‘independent’ deciding voice on the new facility’s board will effectively be chosen by the Sisters of Charity.

Dr Boylan made the claim — which was supported by a number of opposition parties and an independent legal expert last night — after resigning from the Holles Street board amid allegations of a “bullying and intimidatory” atmosphere and claims the controversy “is like an episode from Father Ted”.

Dr Peter Boylan: ‘Independent’ deciding voice on the new board will be chosen by the Sisters of Charity.

Dr Peter Boylan: ‘Independent’ deciding voice on the new board will be chosen by the Sisters of Charity.

Speaking on Newstalk Radio’s Pat Kenny Show, Dr Boylan said that while it has been publicly claimed the new national maternity hospital’s board will be equally balanced between St Vincent’s Healthcare Group —the company controlled by the Sisters of Charity — and Holles Street, this is not correct.

He said while both organisations will have four members on the nine-person board, the ninth person will be selected by a sub-committee which will be weighted by a two to one majority in favour of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, whose clinical director and chief executive will be the officials involved.

Dr Boylan said this situation is “an ethical minefield in the making” and like “an episode from Father Ted” that must be resolved in order to prevent serious issues affecting women’s health in the future from occurring.

Hitting out at a Holles Street board he said was “blind to the consequences of its decision”, he said his concerns are genuine and shared by the wider public and other medics.

“The sub-committee [of the new national maternity hospital’s board] will be of three people, two from St Vincent’s Healthcare Group and one from Holles Street. There is immediate conflict built in, that’s just not a sustainable option for a board of governance,” he said.

In a separate interview with RTÉ’s News at One programme, he repeated the view and added the “central issue” remains the fact the hospital is due to be built on Sisters of Charity land.

“It’s not coming for free, they’re retaining ownership of the land. And that’s the key to the whole thing. There’s no hospital in the entire world delivering maternity services owned by the Catholic church that will perform procedures against a Catholic ethos,” he said.

Dr Boylan’s concern was further shared in his letter of resignation to the Holles Street board yesterday in which he said the new hospital’s board make-up “is not only a recipe for conflict but for domination of the board by the Sisters, the numbers are clear”.

It was supported by solicitor Simon McGarr, who wrote on social media yesterday: “I’ve now read the terms of the agreement brokered between the National Maternity Hospital [Holles Street] and the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group and the real situation is much worse.

"This means the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, 100% owned by the nuns, has institutional control of the board as well as 100% ownership of the company.”

In separate statements, both Labour leader Brendan Howlin and Social Democrats TD Róisín Shortall raised the same concerns.

Meanwhile, Dr Boylan’s decision to resign from the Holles Street board — which he described as being “blinded” by the genuine need for a new maternity hospital and “naive” to believe serious ethical issues will not now emerge — continued to dominate debate yesterday.

Dublin Lord Mayor Brendan Carr said the meeting of the Holles Street Board occurred in a ‘bullying’ atmosphere.

Dublin Lord Mayor Brendan Carr said the meeting of the Holles Street Board occurred in a ‘bullying’ atmosphere.

Labour councillor and Dublin lord mayor Brendan Carr — who chaired Wednesday evening’s Holles Street board meeting which “overwhelmingly” backed the new hospital’s site, leaving Dr Boylan isolated — said the meeting occurred in a “bullying and intimidatory” atmosphere.

However, fellow board member and Greens councillor Claire Byrne disputed the claim, saying her concerns were resolved, that the new hospital must be built as planned, and that Mr Carr had until this week not attended any board meetings about the facility.

Holles Street’s board responded to Dr Boylan’s resignation letter last night, thanking him for his work for decades on behalf of the women and children of Ireland.

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