The Na­tional Ma­ter­nity Hos­pi­tal

The Irish Times - - Comment & Letters -

Sir, – To say, as your let­ter writ­ers do (De­cem­ber 4th), that the Sis­ters of Char­ity will have “no role” in the new ma­ter­nity fa­cil­ity is in­ac­cu­rate. The (Ir­ish) Sis­ters of Char­ity own St Vin­cent’s Health­care Group. The new ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tal, which is to cost an es­ti­mated ¤350 mil­lion, is poised to be­come the con­gre­ga­tion’s lat­est ac­qui­si­tion. The nuns ap­pointed SVHG board mem­bers un­til 2017. The cur­rent chair­man of the board is one such ap­pointee.

As a wholly owned sub­sidiary of SVHG, the new ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tal will have nei­ther op­er­a­tional nor clin­i­cal in­de­pen­dence, con­trary to claims made. SVHG owns and man­ages the nuns’ port­fo­lio of hospi­tals, soon to in­clude the new build. Ob­stet­rics and gy­nae­col­ogy are to be run across the nuns’ four hospi­tals as a sin­gle depart­ment. The mas­ter of the new ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tal will an­swer to the board of SVHG. The chair­man of the ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tal board, ini­tially from Holles Street Hos­pi­tal, will be ap­pointed on a ro­tat­ing ba­sis by SVHG.

To say that there will be “no re­li­gious ethos” lacks cred­i­bil­ity.

In May 2017, the Sis­ters of Char­ity an­nounced that their ethos would con­tinue to pre­vail in their hospi­tals. This was con­firmed by SVHG chair­man James Men­ton. These com­mit­ments were pub­licly wel­comed by Holles Street Hos­pi­tal.

The nuns have never per­mit­ted pro­ce­dures pro­hib­ited by the Catholic Church. Ser­vices such as ster­il­i­sa­tion are most un­likely to be car­ried out in their hospi­tals. Med­i­cal con­sul­tants sign con­tracts bind­ing them to the nuns’ ethos. At least 1,000 of Vin­cent’s 4,000 staff have at­tended cour­ses in this Catholic be­lief sys­tem.

A new com­pany is be­ing set up to take own­er­ship of the four hospi­tals. SVHG ac­counts show that the di­rec­tors of this com­pany will be legally obliged to up­hold the con­gre­ga­tional code. The Sis­ters of Char­ity have the op­tion of writ­ing this code into the char­ter of this com­pany and/or plac­ing it un­der the su­per­vi­sion of the Catholic hier­ar­chy by in­cor­po­rat­ing it as an en­tity in canon law. Which­ever they choose, the ball is in their court.

It is patently clear that the new ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tal needs to be taken into pub­lic own­er­ship if it is to pro­vide a full range of ser­vices, in­clud­ing abor­tion, free of re­li­gious in­flu­ence and control.

Fi­nally, to sug­gest, as your cor­re­spon­dents do, that the mis­treat­ment of women in­car­cer­ated in Mag­da­lene laun­dries is a sep­a­rate is­sue from the own­er­ship of the new ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tal is to ig­nore hu­man rights to re­dress and repa­ra­tions. The Sis­ters of Char­ity owned sev­eral of the more no­to­ri­ous Ma­ga­lene laun­dries. Many of the women buried in Hyde Park, for ex­am­ple, were found on ex­huma­tion to have limbs en­cased in plas­ter. The Sis­ters of Char­ity have re­fused to pay a penny in com­pen­sa­tion to the women whose lives they ru­ined and from whose in­den­tured labour they prof­ited.

To gift this con­gre­ga­tion a new pub­licly funded ma­ter­nity hos­pi­tal would be to cop­per­fas­ten Ire­land’s cul­ture of im­punity. – Yours, etc,

JO TULLY, Chair­woman, Cam­paign Against Church Own­er­ship of Women’s Health­care, Clon­tarf, Dublin 3.

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