Stephen Donnelly rubbishes idea of religious influence at new maternity hospital 3 months ago

Stephen Donnelly rubbishes idea of religious influence at new maternity hospital

The Health Minister has addressed concerns regarding the new hospital.

Health Minister Stephen Donnelly has said that religious beliefs will not interfere with the operation of the new National Maternity Hospital (NMH).

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The Minister made the comments in a statement issued on Tuesday (17 May) by the Department of Health following Cabinet approving the relocation of the hospital in Dublin from Holles Street to St Vincent’s.

As part of the much-discussed plan, the Government would lease the land from St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) for 299 years at €10 a year.

The legal framework that will underpin the ownership and governance arrangements for the hospital has also been approved by the HSE Board, as well as the boards of the NMH and SVHG.

Donnelly said the approval was an "important milestone" as the Government works to improve maternity services for the women and children of Ireland.

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"The new National Maternity Hospital is a critical piece of health infrastructure that will ensure women and infants are cared for in a state-of-the-art hospital that will help our clinicians deliver improved outcomes," he stated.

“I would like to pay particular tribute to all of those from across our maternity services, from nurses to midwives to clinicians, along with the management and administrative teams behind them who have worked hard over the last two weeks to address and bring clarity to the genuine concerns of many relating to our new Maternity Hospital.”

According to the Department of Health, the legal framework will:

  • ensure that all legally permissible services will be available in the new NMH
  • prevent any influence, religious or otherwise, on the operation of the new hospital
  • safeguard the State’s significant investment in the hospital
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Earlier this year, the Religious Sisters of Charity's shareholding in SVHG was transferred to another entity named St Vincent’s Holdings which will lease the land.

However, there have been concerns that a potential remaining religious influence could interfere with decisions made at the hospital.

As such, there had been calls on Government to delay signing off on the plan in order to examine it at greater length.

Addressing these fears, the Health Minister said following the approval:

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“There were concerns that access to essential healthcare services could potentially be restricted due to the religious beliefs or ethical code of the hospitals concerned.

"I am absolutely satisfied that this legal framework ensures this will not be the case and that all lawfully permissible services will be provided in the new NMH, as they are in the current NMH.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Health has said that the Religious Sisters of Charity will not play any role in the governance or operation of the new hospital.

"The Sisters have completed the transfer of their shares in SVHG to the charitable entity, St Vincent’s Holdings CLG and no longer have any involvement in SVHG," its statement reads.