Legal framework for new maternity hospital agreed

Hospital will be "fully secular" - Donnelly

Deborah Condon

May 17, 2022

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  • The government has approved the legal framework for the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) to the campus of St Vincent’s University Hospital in Dublin.

    Following the recent agreement by Cabinet to allow for additional public debate and scrutiny of the documents relating to the framework, it has now been approved by the HSE board as well as the boards of the NMH and St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG).

    According to the Department of Health, the legal framework addresses both the ownership and governance of the new hospital. It will ensure that all legally permissible services will be available there and it will prevent any influence, religious or otherwise, on the operation of the new hospital 

    It will also safeguard the State’s significant investment in the hospital.

    “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,” commented the Minister for Health, Stephen Donnelly.

    He pointed out that this is “the biggest investment in women’s healthcare in the history of the State”. He acknowledged that some people have had “very understandable concerns” over recent weeks but he clarified that the new NMH will be a “fully secular” public hospital where all services “must be provided”. Furthermore, the State “will own the hospital and the land for the next 300 years”

    Under the legal framework the HSE will lease the site for the new NMH from SVHG for 299 years. The HSE will own the building for the entirety of its useful life. The lease period is far in excess of the useful, functional life of the hospital and is also double the previous proposed length of the lease. 

    Meanwhile, the Religious Sisters of Charity will not play any role in the governance or operation of the new NMH. 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.

    According to HSE chief executive, Paul Reid, this is a “hugely important development in our efforts to improve maternity and gynaecology services in Ireland”.

    “The approval of the legal framework by all key parties brings us one step closer to making this new hospital a reality,” he said.

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