Harris aiming to resolve maternity hospital dispute within weeks

Approximately 2,000 people took to the streets this weekend calling for the hospital to be kept in public ownership

Harris aiming to resolve maternity hospital dispute within weeks

Simon Harris. Photo: Sam Boal / RollingNews.ie

The Minister for Health is hoping to bring forward proposals to end the ownership dispute that has engulfed Ireland’s new National Maternity Hospital by the end of the month.

Minister Simon Harris said officials from the Department of Health are meeting with both hospitals this week – after which he plans to attend talks himself.

Over the weekend an estimated 2,000 people took to the streets calling for the new facility to be kept in public ownership.

Protestors gathered at the Garden of Remembrance before marching to government buildings.

Marchers carried a petition signed by 103,607 people demanding that the decision to hand ownership of the hospital over to religious group, the Sisters of Charity be overturned.

Religious ownership

Speaking today, Minister Harris pointed out that the state does not own the current facility at Holles Street.

“People were marching and they were saying they want ‘our hospital’ and referring to it as ‘our hospital,’” he said.

“Well obviously the reality of it is that the current maternity hospital is not our hospital; it is a voluntary hospital chaired by the archbishop of Dublin.”

“I think people in this country have rightly said that they want to see that conversation take place about who owns what within the health service and who is involved in what in relation to the health service.

Resolution

He said he hopes talks on the ownership issue will be completed in the coming weeks – but warned that resolving the dispute will not be easy.

“The issue of ownership is one that is on the table and needs to be re-examined so I expect to meet with the hospitals very shortly,” he said. “I expect my department to be engaging with them this week and hope to be in a position to have proposals by the end of the month or certainly progress by the end of the month.”

“But it is important to say we need everybody to play their part here because there are two voluntary hospitals here which are not owned by the state at stake here as well.”

National Maternity Hospital

The land the proposed new facility will be built upon at the St Vincent’s Hospital campus in Dublin is owned by the Sisters of Charity and is being made available to the state free of charge.

The government has insisted that the group will be unable to profit from the facility and will have no input into the hospital’s ethos and clinical governance.

Opposition groups on the other hand, have warned that any facility paid for by the state – at a cost of €300m – should be fully owned by the people.