Health, Nation

Health, Nation

State to control new National Maternity Hospital under fresh proposals

Terms include 299-year lease and an increase in public-interest directors

23/10/2021 06:02:00

Terms include 299-year lease and an increase in public-interest directors

Terms include 299-year lease and an increase in public-interest directors

Still, Coalition leaders have expressed disquiet about aspects of the governance and lease arrangements. Ministers’ preference was for the State to buy the site outright but St Vincent’s Healthcare Group said it must retain ownership “for clinical, governance and operational reasons”.

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Now new terms have been settled for the lease of the site and governance, although they await final sign-off at Government level. “It’s getting close,” said one senior participant in the talks.At a meeting on Wednesday, the National Maternity Hospital board gave its approval for a proposal which will in effect double the duration of the original lease that was on offer. “The Health Service Executive will own the building on a ground lease of 299 years and there will be a change to the board composition,” said an informed source.

The prolonged lease duration and board changes were confirmed by a second source briefed on the talks but is understood that the HSE board has yet to sign off on the plan.New arrangementIn the new arrangement there will be three public-interest directors on the board which will run the hospital, a change from the original proposal to have only one such director. The number of St Vincent’s directors on the board will drop to three from four and the number of directors from the National Maternity Hospital will also drop to three from four.

The result is that there will be three directors each representing the public interest, St Vincent’s and the NMH instead of one for the public interest and four each for St Vincent’s and the NMH.The change to board representation is in keeping with concerns highlighted in recent months by Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Tánaiste Leo Varadkar.

Mr Martin has insisted there can be no semblance or even perception of religious influence in the new hospital. At one point in recent months the Taoiseach said he had not ruled out placing a compulsory purchase order on the site but he also warned that such action could jeopardise the entire project.

Catholic ethosSimilarly, Mr Varadkar has guaranteed that abortion, IVF and other procedures contrary to Catholic ethos will be carried out in the new hospital.Critics of the lease arrangement include Dr Peter Boylan, former master of the NMH, who has campaigned against it for years and has questioned “unverified assurances” about the services the new hospital would provide.

In June a group of 42 senior NMH clinicians expressed concern that “misinformation” and “misunderstanding” around the planned hospital relocation could delay the move.They said that all procedures will be available, including pregnancy terminations and assisted reproduction services.

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