"Window of opportunity" exists to save maternity hospital deal

Dr Michael Harty says a collapse of the St Vincent's deal would lead to a "substantial delay" in providing the hospital

"Window of opportunity" exists to save maternity hospital deal

The National Maternity Hospital on Dublin's Holles Street | Image: RollingNews.ie

The head of the Oireachtas Health Committee says he believes there is still a window of opportunity to save the new National Maternity Hospital deal

Currently, the €300 million facility is planned for a site on the St Vincent's Hospital campus in Dublin.

Under the agreed deal, the St Vincent's Healthcare Group would be 'sole owners' of the new hospital in return for the land to build the new facility.

The project is currently under review, however, amid controversy over the involvement of the religious group Sisters of Charity, who are the major shareholders of the healthcare group.

Campaigners also argue that the religious organisation's failure to compensate abuse victims should prevent their involvement.

More than 90,000 people have signed a petition against the Sisters of Charity's involvement, while opposition politicians have also criticised the deal.

Health Minister Simon Harris has welcomed the review, and stressed that "the clinical, operational and financial independence of the new hospital [will be] copperfastened in new legal arrangements".

Clare TD Dr Michael Harty is the Chair of the Oireachtas Committee on Health, and he spoke to Newstalk Drive about the ongoing controversy.

He argued: "It would be very important to see the detail of that deal, because we have to separate the business deal from the medical and the ethical considerations.

"There is a need for a new maternity hospital. The fact that St Vincent's was chosen had very positive aspects to it - and I think if it doesn't go ahead in St Vincent's, there's going to be a substantial delay in providing this hospital."

Speaking about the benefits of locating the hospital at St Vincent's, Dr Harty suggested: "Many pregnant women have ongoing diseases - kidney, heart, renal disease - which requires expert opinion. That would be facilitated by having it co-located [...] There's also the advantage that the site is being offered free.

"The disadvantage is, as it would appear, that the religious order seem to want to have an input into the ethical value of the hospital - and I think that is not acceptable."