Prof John Crown has seen "some evidence of sectarianism" at St Vincent's

He suggested there is a "subtle influence" but not a "Taliban-like theocracy"

Prof John Crown has seen "some evidence of sectarianism" at St Vincent's

Professor John Crown. Image: RollingNews.ie

Consultant oncologist and former senator Professor John Crown has said he has seen some firsthand evidence of 'sectarianism' in the way St Vincent's Hospital operates.

The controversy erupted after it emerged the St Vincent's Healthcare Group - which is controlled by the Sisters of Charity - will own the new National Maternity Hospital, which is to be located on the site at St Vincent's Hospital in South Dublin.

The Health Minister and the NMH board have insisted the clinical freedom of the new hospital will be guaranteed - but many commentators, including former NMH Master Peter Boylan - have raised concerns about the arrangement.

The Irish Times has highlighted some of the procedures and treatments banned by the Sisters of Charity.

Prof Crown suggested there is some 'subtle' religious influence at St Vincent's.

Speaking on Yates on Sunday, he explained: "I have firsthand seen some evidence of sectarianism in the way the institution does its business - there is simply no escaping that.

"I've been asking my colleagues in the relevant specialties 'have you ever been stopped?' It's sort of subtle - I don't want people to think it's some sort of Taliban-like theocracy - it's not like that. On a day-to-day basis people would have no awareness of it.

"I had the firsthand experience of having clinical trials delayed - not by long, because I fought them on it - on an issue where [it was] specified that contraception was required for patients who would be exposing themselves to drugs which could be horrific to a developing foetus. You just needed for legal reasons to make sure that the person would not get pregnant."

He added: "I'm really troubled by the ownership issue. But having said all that, as one of my gynaecology colleagues said to me [...] 'an Irish solution to an Irish problem - it may be the best we can do'.

"If at the end of it everyone has a warm, liberal feeling of ethical vindication but we don't have a maternity hospital - that's not a win."

"There is another interest involved"

Image: RollingNews.ie

The board of the National Maternity Hospital reaffirmed their commitment to the deal earlier this week.

Kieran Mulvey, the man who brokered agreement between the the two hospitals, told the Sunday Business Post that a "creative solution" can still be found to resolve the row.

Dr Peter Boylan, former Master of the NMH, resigned from the hospital's Executive Committee earlier this week over the ongoing controversy and his opposition to the deal.

He accused the board for being "blind to the consequences of its decision to transfer sole ownership of the hospital to the Religious Sisters of Charity".

Prof Crown says he was 'furious' when he heard there was pressure on Dr Boylan to resign, saying "he's done the State an incredible service".

"He's actually opened up the can of worms [...] on the ambiguous ownership of several institutions in the State," Prof Crown noted.

However, he also suggested that he was 'despondent' when it appeared St Vincent's Healthcare Group was reconsidering the deal (they have since said they remain 'totally supportive' of the relocation).

He argued: "What rational person on the board of a rational institution - looking at something which the women of this country urgently need and which the babies of this country urgently need - would say 'well actually we might walk away from it if you don't do it our way'?

"That is not the thinking of somebody who has got proper, programmatic health planning at heart - it is the thinking of somebody who is defending some other interest.

"There is another interest involved here - which has often been kind, which has often been positive, but because of changing demographics and changing realities is developing another set of self-interests right now."

He insisted, however, that the main priority is to get the new hospital built as soon as possible.