Harris: Nuns will not be running hospital
‘No religious order can profit’ New company set up to run hospital
SIMON Harris yesterday vowed that no contracts will be signed off before the Government is satisfied that the new National Maternity Hospital will be run without religious interference.
Responding to the growing clamour for the Sisters of Charity to be blocked from having sole ownership of the Elm Park site, the Heath Minister yesterday rushed to reassure people.
The religious congregation’s ownership, via a healthcare company they are the major shareholders in, was confirmed by Mr Harris on Monday.
Yesterday, the minister said it was ‘not true’ nuns will be running the hospital and that the issue of redress still owed to the State by the Sisters of Charity over child abuse was a separate issue.
‘I have heard legitimate questions and opinions in recent days,’ he said yesterday. ‘Before this project proceeds beyond the planning permission phase, this new hospital must be developed in line with best international practice for maternity hospitals.
‘The hospital must have clinical, operational and financial independence, with no question of religious interference and with a role for the Minister for Health of the day to guarantee this.’
Mr Harris added that ‘the State’s financial and public health interest in this hospital must be fully protected’.
He said: ‘No private entity or religious order can profit in any way. The building can only be used for the defined purpose of providing public maternity, gynaecological and neonatal services.
‘Robust contractual arrangements must be put in place to make sure that this is a reality.’
He added: ‘Before any contracts are entered into, these criteria must be satisfied in full.
Mr Harris said that he had formally written to the HSE on the matter and that he expected all of the issues to be addressed as part of the contractual arrangements which will be put in place in advance of construction beginning.
He remarked: ‘In all such cases, where the HSE undertake capital development, legal mechanisms are put in place to ensure that the State’s investment is protected and that the facilities are secured for the continued use of public patients. This must and will be the case in relation to the new Maternity Hospital.’
Responding to issues raised by Dr Peter Boylan on Morning Ireland, he insisted the nuns will not make any financial gain from the co-location deal and that they will not run the €300million hospital, which, it is hoped, will be finished by 2021.
‘There will be no financial gain to any religious order from the development of this hospital,’ Mr Harris said. ‘I have heard people say that nuns will be running the hospital. Not true. I have heard that nuns have been gifted the hospital. Not true. I have heard people talk about nuns and redress.
‘Redress is extremely important and I have previously said that the religious orders must step up to the mark and pay what is long overdue.
‘However, I think it is wrong to conflate redress with the decision to build the desperately needed new maternity hospital.’
A row over the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital to the St Vincent’s campus first broke out last year amid concerns over who would control it.
St Vincent’s had wanted the board of the NMH to be subsumed into its own board.
But the NMH, based at Holles Street in Dublin city centre, insisted on retaining its own board, with an obstetrician or ‘master’ serving as its chief executive, with control over funding.
The row saw former NMH master Dr Boylan warn that as the St Vincent’s hospital group is run by the Sisters of Charity, they could attempt to impose a religious ethos on the running of the new maternity hospital.
In June 2016, former Labour Court chairman Kieran Mulvey was appointed to mediate talks. In the end, an agreement was reached which would see a new company, the National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park, set up to operate the new hospital. The company will be 100% owned by the St Vincent’s hospital group, but would enjoy clinical and operational independence in the provision of maternity, gynaecology, obstetrics and neonatal services, under the deal brokered by Mr Mulvey. The existing role of master of Holles Street is also retained under the new set-up.
Both the NMH and St Vincent’s agreed that a ‘special golden share’ would be created to provide legal protection for the reserved powers held by the company.
Vow: Simon Harris with a model of the new National Maternity Hospital