That’s what you call an unholy row!

Two se­nior medics, who are in-laws, at odds over nuns’ hospi­tal

Irish Daily Mail - - Front Page - By Neil Michael and Leah McDonald neil.michael@dailymail.ie

THE coun­try’s two most em­i­nent ob­ste­tri­cians were last night re­fus­ing to back down in an as­ton­ish­ing row over the new Na­tional Ma­ter­nity Hospi­tal.

The Mas­ter of Holles Street, Dr Rhona Ma­hony, ac­cused her pre­de­ces­sor, Dr Peter Boy­lan, of ‘mis­lead­ing’ the pub­lic over own­er­ship of the planned new NMH build­ing. The pair are long-time col­leagues and Dr Boy­lan is mar­ried to Dr Ma­hony’s sis­ter Jane.

THE coun­try’s two most em­i­nent ob­ste­tri­cians were last night re­fus­ing to back down in an as­ton­ish­ing row over the new na­tional ma­ter­nity hospi­tal.

Cur­rent Mas­ter of the Na­tional Ma­ter­nity Hospi­tal in Holles St Dublin, Dr Rhona Ma­hony, an­grily ac­cused her pre­de­ces­sor, Dr Peter Boy­lan, of ‘mis­lead­ing’ the pub­lic over own­er­ship of the planned new NMH build­ing.

Ex­traor­di­nar­ily, the pair are not just long-time col­leagues but Dr Boy­lan is also Dr Ma­hony’s brother-in-law, hav­ing mar­ried her sis­ter Jane.

Dr Boy­lan was a mem­ber of the Holles Street board which de­fended Dr Ma­hony in the row over salary top-ups, af­ter a HSE au­dit said she had been paid a €45,000 pay­ment in ad­di­tion to her €236,000-a-year salary.

Yes­ter­day’s spec­tac­u­lar pub­lic dis­agree­ment be­tween two such close col­leagues deep­ened the row over the State’s de­ci­sion to al­low own­er­ship of the new €300mil­lion hospi­tal by the Catholic or­der, the Sis­ters of Char­ity.

The or­der, which ran many Mag­da­lene laun­dries, still owes the State €3mil­lion of the €5mil­lion it agreed to pay victims of abuse at the in­sti­tu­tions. Min­is­ters in­sist that the Sis­ters of Char­ity have ef­fec­tively handed the State a very valu­able site next to St Vin­cent’s Hospi­tal, which they also own.

They say the hospi­tal can never be sold and the nuns will not be al­lowed ex­ert any in­flu­ence over med­i­cal pro­ce­dures.

How­ever, the sim­mer­ing row over the own­er­ship be­came a full-scale con­fla­gra­tion yes­ter­day af­ter Dr Boy­lan, who re­cently re­tired from prac­tice but re­mains on the NMH board, went on RTÉ ra­dio to de­nounce the deal. ‘I fully sup­port the need for the new hospi­tal but I think they (Holles Street) have been backed into a cor­ner ef­fec­tively by the min­is­ter who has said this is the deal,’ he said.

‘Un­doubt­edly, the women of Ire­land need a new hospi­tal. It’s a su­perb de­sign but the struc­ture is completely wrong and it’s just un­ac­cept­able for the State, our money, to be given to the Sis­ters of Char­ity to build a hospi­tal.’

And he said: ‘What’s wrong with that is the State is in­vest­ing €300mil­lion of your money and my money in a new ma­ter­nity hospi­tal. It is in­ap­pro­pri­ate that that hospi­tal should have a strong re­li­gious in­flu­ence, par­tic­u­larly from the Catholic Church, with all its bad his­tory in re­la­tion to women’s health. Is­sues like abor­tion and IVF and so on are di­rectly con­trary to the nuns be­liefs.’

An au­di­bly an­gered Dr Ma­hony went on Seán O’Rourke’s ra­dio show less than two hours later and said: ‘First of all, I am re­ally sur­prised that the chair­man of the In­sti­tute of Ob­stet­rics and Gy­nae­col­ogy would be so mis­lead­ing on ra­dio to sug­gest the nuns will be run­ning the hospi­tal.

‘This is not true. To sug­gest this hospi­tal will be run un­der a Catholic ethos, this is not true. When the Na­tional Ma­ter­nity Hospi­tal moves to the Elm Park cam­pus it will be an in­de­pen­dent hospi­tal and an in­de­pen­dent com­pany with its own in­de­pen­dent board ded­i­cated solely to the provi­sion of gy­nae­co­log­i­cal ma­ter­nity and neona­tal ser­vices.’

And she said: ‘I couldn’t care less who owns my hospi­tal build­ing but I re­ally care that I have con­trol over the ser­vice that I de­liver and that I can give clin­i­cal care to women that is ap­pro­pri­ate.

‘It is not the way for­ward to con­tinue to stay in a di­lap­i­dated build­ing that can­not pro­vide the fa­cil­i­ties for mod­ern care. So, are we re­ally go­ing to mis­in­form peo­ple? We will be an in­de­pen­dent com­pany that will op­er­ate in en­tirely in­de­pen­dently clin­i­cally.’

And she added: ‘But what we don’t need is mis­in­for­ma­tion and we don’t need is scare­mon­ger­ing and what we don’t need is completely in­ac­cu­rate in­for­ma­tion And what we don’t need is this at­tack on the nuns, who will not be in­volved in the delivery of ma­ter­nity gy­nae­co­log­i­cal and neona­tal care.’

Former top judge Ni­cholas Kearns, chair­man of the NMH, also at­tacked Dr Boy­lan for not telling the board – or his sis­ter-in-law – he was go­ing to pub­licly crit­i­cise the ar­range­ment. He said: ‘I only learned (Wed­nes­day night) that Dr Boy­lan pro­posed to ap­pear on Morn­ing Ire­land.’

‘I’m sur­prised he’d be mis­lead­ing’

IN many ways, the build­ing of the new Na­tional Ma­ter­nity Hospi­tal on the St Vin­cent’s site in Dublin ap­pears to tick all the boxes. There is no dis­pute what­so­ever, af­ter all, that the cur­rent hospi­tal in Holles Street has long been past its sell-by date, that its fa­cil­i­ties are an­ti­quated, and that it is no longer equipped to ser­vice the needs of the moth­ers and ba­bies of this coun­try. That we need a new ma­ter­nity hospi­tal – and as soon as pos­si­ble – is there­fore a given.

To have such a hospi­tal co-lo­cated be­side an­other ma­jor gen­eral hospi­tal is also med­i­cally im­por­tant. In­deed, in emer­gency sit­u­a­tions, it is a vi­tal re­quire­ment and po­ten­tially even life-sav­ing. That the new hospi­tal is to be built be­side a gen­eral hospi­tal such as St Vin­cent’s is also, there­fore, a huge plus.

So the no­tion that, with­out hav­ing to buy a site at huge ex­pense to the State, we can still build a state-of-the-art ma­ter­nity hospi­tal right be­side a rep­utable pub­lic hospi­tal sounds like the best deal pos­si­ble. On top of that, af­ter much wran­gling, the new hospi­tal is said to have es­tab­lished a man­age­ment struc­ture that guar­an­tees med­i­cal in­de­pen­dence – to the de­gree that Mas­ter Rhona Ma­hony says she is per­fectly happy with the sit­u­a­tion.

Look­ing at the over­all pic­ture, it is there­fore easy to un­der­stand why peo­ple would con­clude that there are no ob­sta­cles here. In­deed, if the only con­ces­sion is that the new hospi­tal is nom­i­nally owned by St Vin­cent’s, with the Gov­ern­ment hold­ing a golden share, then, on the sur­face, this does not ap­pear to be an un­rea­son­able propo­si­tion.

How­ever, it has emerged that there are in­deed se­ri­ous con­cerns here. Those who have own­er­ship of St Vin­cent’s Hospi­tal are the Sis­ters of Char­ity, who, in pow­er­ful de­tail, have set out how that hospi­tal is to be run in ac­cor­dance with their re­li­gious prin­ci­ples. As a re­sult, cer­tain pro­ce­dures at vari­ance with those Catholic prin­ci­ples are not car­ried out in St Vin­cent’s, thereby il­lus­trat­ing how the own­ers are in­deed ex­ert­ing in­flu­ence on the medicine prac­tised in that hospi­tal.

It is im­pos­si­ble, there­fore, to ex­pect that those same be­liefs will not be brought to bear by the same own­ers when it comes to the gov­er­nance of the new ma­ter­nity hospi­tal. The his­tory of busi­ness tells us, time and again, that it is the own­ers who call the shots. In this sit­u­a­tion that would ob­vi­ously im­ply re­li­gious in­flu­ence over medicine.

That is cer­tainly what Peter Boy­lan, former Mas­ter of Holles Street and ar­guably the coun­try’s most re­spected ob­ste­tri­cian, is say­ing. That is pre­cisely what he fears from this ar­range­ment.

Mean­while, one of the St Vin­cent’s Health­care Group board mem­bers, Sis­ter Agnes Reynolds, has pub­licly stated that the Sis­ters of Char­ity will have no in­put into the run­ning of the ma­ter­nity hospi­tal, and that they will ‘re­spect the rights of mother and baby’. Yet, in it­self, that very state­ment im­plies a de­gree of in­flu­ence.

Nor should we for­get that the Sis­ters of Char­ity have failed to pay the com­pen­sa­tion re­quired of them to the victims of their ap­palling Mag­da­lene Laun­dries regime.

All of this raises ma­jor con­cerns in re­la­tion to the oper­a­tion of the new ma­ter­nity hospi­tal. Ob­vi­ously it is im­per­a­tive that such a hospi­tal is built, but with such mis­giv­ings now raised, the Gov­ern­ment must ex­plore other op­tions, in­clud­ing the ac­qui­si­tion of the site by com­pul­sory pur­chase or­der.

In re­al­ity, how­ever, the sim­plest and best so­lu­tion is for the Sis­ters of Char­ity to re­lin­quish their own­er­ship of the St Vin­cent’s site. To do the right thing. And to give some­thing valu­able back to the women of Ire­land.

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