Harris: "I am absolutely committed to building a new National Maternity Hospital"

The Minister said he will report back to the Goverment at the end of May

Harris: "I am absolutely committed to building a new National Maternity Hospital"

Health Minister Simon Harris speaking to the media at Dublin Castle in 2016 | Image: Rollingnews.ie

The Minister for Health Simon Harris has again stressed that he's "absolutely committed" to building a new National Maternity Hospital.

Simon Harris says he has heard "very clearly" the issues of public concern over the plans - and he is continuing to work with both hospitals involved, before reporting back to the Government - and the public - by the end of May.

His statement comes as debate continues to rage across the weekend - with political and medical experts both for and against the deal, to hand ownership of the new facility to the Sisters of Charity, in exchange for land at the site at St Vincent's

"After many years of failed attempts, I was delighted when, late last year, the two voluntary hospitals involved agreed to work together to make this happen and to ensure co-location between maternity and acute adult services," the statement reads.

"I remain grateful to them and to Kieran Mulvey for their tireless work in coming to an agreement ensuring absolute clinical independence. I have also welcomed the statement by the Board of the St. Vincent's Healthcare Group earlier this week which reaffirmed this clinical independence.

"The agreement also has robust measures to protect the State's investment, in line with well established practice, and a new role for the Health Minister of the day in terms of a "golden share" - something which in my view is an improvement on the current reality in maternity services."

The Minister continued saying: "The agreement reached between the hospitals recognised that the State will require a "lien" on the new facility in accordance with whatever funding agreements are in place by the State for such capital projects.

"Different options have been used in the past in doing this and I believe there is potential to devise creative and acceptable solutions ‎that will provide further reassurance regarding the ownership of these facilities which will be paid for by the State."

Sectarianism

Speaking on Yates on Sunday earlier today, consultant oncologist and former senator Professor John Crown said he has seen some first-hand evidence of 'sectarianism' in the way St Vincent's Hospital operates.

He explained: "I have first-hand 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."