Harris told "time is now up" on maternity hospital plans

Maternity services group AIMS Ireland has called on the minister to outline what will happen with the project

There are calls for the Health Minister to outline his progress on the new National Maternity Hospital – one month after he asked for a period of calm in order to meet with relevant stakeholders.

Concerns have been raised about the potential for religious influence over the hospital after it emerged that sole ownership of the facility will pass to religious group, the Sisters of Charity when construction is completed.

Despite the controversy, the Minister for Health Simon Harris has insisted he is “as determined as ever” to go ahead with the project – and pledged to ensure there will be no religious interference in the hospitals ethos or clinical independence.

He has also claimed the religious organisation will be unable to profit from the facility.

Period of calm

On April 26th, he called for a “period of calm” to allow him to meet with the boards of both hospitals and pledged to provide an update by the end of May.

In a statement this morning, Krysia Lynch, chairperson of the Association for Improvements in the Maternity Services Ireland (AIMS Ireland) said the minister’s time is now up – and demanded to know the outcome of the talks.

“We trust all the excitement in the Fine Gael party at the moment hasn’t overshadowed this crucial issue and we remind the minister that in spite of all the disagreement regarding the plans for this hospital, not one of the stakeholders would deny that there is a dire need for this facility,” she said. “Just not at any cost.”

Religious influence

AIMS Ireland is demanding to know whether the government plans to go ahead with the project as planned – and whether the Sisters of Charity will retain ownership of the facility.

The group also wrote to the religious sisters last month posing a number of questions they would like answered, if the project goes ahead as planned, including:

  • If the Eighth Amendment is repealed and abortion legalised, will this be carried out on the site?
  • If a woman wishes to have a medical sterilisation through choice, can that procedure be carried out under the agreement between the NMH and St Vincent’s?
  • Will IVF and other advanced medical fertilization therapies take place on the site under the current agreement?
  • If a woman is undergoing cancer treatment and needs contraceptive medication and/or procedures at the hospital, what is the position then?
  • What will and will not be vetoed at this hospital?

Ms Lynch said the organisation is still waiting for a response from the religious group – one month after posing their questions adding, “if they are to own this hospital, they must clarify exactly what their ethos determines they are duty-bound to veto.”

She said the government should not be putting a cent of public money towards the project until the group has provided clear answers.

The group this morning reiterated its position that the new hospital must be “completely independent, secular and must follow an ethos of best-practice, evidence-based care.”