Former Coombe master steps down from maternity hospital project board

It follows Dr Peter Boylan's resignation yesterday

St Vincent's Hospital, relocation, National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, Leo Varadkar, funding,

St Vincent's University Hospital in Dublin | Image: RollingNews.ie

Former Master of the Coombe Professor Chris Fitzpatrick has stood down from the project board of the National Maternity Hospital in support of Dr Peter Boylan.

Dr Fitzpatrick had been designated by the Health Service Executive to plan the €300m new hospital.

On The Pat Kenny Show yesterday, Dr Boylan resigned from the board with immediate effect. Dr Boylan was critical of the move to grant ownership to the new public-funded National Maternity Hospital to the religious group the Sisters of Charity.

In his resignation note, Prof Fitzpatrick said he shared Dr Boylan's reservations about the proposed religious ownership of the hospital.

Speaking to Pat Kenny on Newstalk today, Irish Times Health Correspondent Paul Cullen said that while the project is "bigger than one man", his resignation remains significant.

"It is indication that there is support for Peter Boylan's stance among the community of obstetricians and gynecologists and outside the National Maternity Hospital," he said.

Mr Cullen said that Dr Boylan has emerged triumphant in the court of public opinion. However, he said the focus should also be on the finances involved.

"In all the talk of church and state during the week, we sometimes forget that there is a lot of money involved in healthcare," he said. "There will be private facilities in the new hospital when it moves, and that's a very important component both for the hospital to raise money and for individuals under our healthcare system."

Inexplicable

Reacting to the issue, Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay said he did not anticipate another fallout concerning maternity hospital ownership in 2017.

"I didn't think we would ever have a row again about the state consciously, deliberately deciding to build a maternity hospital, and giving it to the Catholic Church, " he said on Newstalk Breakfast.

"I just cannot understand the basis behind the decision, the logic behind the decision [...] You wouldn't build a university and hand it over to the Catholic Church. It's inexplicable."

Barnardos CEO Fergus Finlay

"A system that works"

Meanwhile, the former master of the Rotunda has defended Ireland's maternity hospital system.

Sam Coulter Smith said current facilities are all free from religious influence, and that the new hospital can be autonomous if current standards are followed.

"It must be very clear who's in charge, who's making the decisions and how those decisions are made, and who those decisions are reported to," he said. "There can't be any interference from any outside body with any other interest.

"That's what we have in the maternity hospitals at the moment. We have a mastership system [...] We've got a system that works."