Simon Harris accused of 'hypocrisy' over maternity hospital stance

It has emerged that Minister Harris raised concerns about the St Vincent's Healthcare Group in 2014

Simon Harris accused of 'hypocrisy' over maternity hospital stance

Photo: Sam Boal/Rollingnews.ie

Simon Harris has been accused of 'hypocrisy' over his stance on the new National Maternity Hospital.

The €300m hospital will be located on the St Vincent’s University Hospital campus in Dublin, and will cater for up to 10,000 births per year.

The Sisters of Charity are the major shareholder in the St Vincent's Healthcare Group. The Department of Health confirmed earlier this week that that group will be the sole owner of the new hospital.

While there is broad agreement over the urgent need for a new hospital, campaigners and several opposition politicians have argued that the group of nuns should not be involved.

Concerns have also been raised about the Sisters of Charity's failure to date to pay their full pledged contribution to the abuse redress scheme.

A report from the Comptroller and Auditor General (C&AG) last year showed that the Sisters of Charity offered €5m towards the €128m scheme, but have only paid €2m.

Yesterday, Minister Harris said the Government will not proceed with the project unless the Department of Health is satisfied that the hospital will be free of religious interference and that the state's investment will be 100% protected.

He also stressed that the Sisters of Charity will receive no financial gain from the new facility.

He insisted: "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." 

However, it has now emerged that Minister Harris raised concerns about the ownership structures at St Vincent's as far back as January 2014. 

Speaking when he was a TD on the Public Accounts Committee, Harris raised concerns about potential conflicts of interest that could arise involving the healthcare group.

Labour TD Alan Kelly claims the Health Minister has adopted a "hypocritical stance" over the matter.

He argued: “Minister Harris knew of this gross misuse of a public hospital and was scandalised at the time, yet here we are three short years later with Minister Harris being very vocal in his defence of the Sisters of Charity having ownership of a new state Hospital.

"The Sisters of Charity have no business in owning any part of a national maternity hospital and should give this land to the state. Why doesn't the Minister insist on this or take legal action to compulsory take it?"

Deputy Kelly added: "He was outraged at their behaviour three years ago, it's time he was again and acted accordingly otherwise he's practicising hypocrisy!"

 

Almost 75,000 people have now signed a petition calling on the Department of Health to block Sisters of Charity becoming the 'sole owners' of the National Maternity Hospital.