THE planned merger of two maternity hospitals in Dublin has been stalled in a dispute between their boards that centres on the religious ethos and governance demands of the proposed new facility at the Roman Catholic-run site.
The National Maternity Hospital (NMH) at Holles Street, in the inner city, is a voluntary institution with its own board, as is St Vincent’s, the hospital in the southern city suburbs where the NMH is due to relocate.
Fears that the board of NMH would be subsumed into that of St Vincent’s, which is wholly owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity, and whose board includes two nuns from the order, have been expressed by the Institute of Obstetricians.
Its chairman, Dr Peter Boylan, said: “Catholic-controlled hospitals around the world forbid the provision of modern contraceptive services, IVF, sterilisation operations, and gender reassignment surgery.”
“We also have concerns in this respect about the implementation of the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act”, he said.
Dr Boylan is supported by the Health Service Executive in his view that the Holles Street hospital should be allowed to retain its own board in the interests of patient safety. The Health and Safety Executive representative on the transfer project, Professor Chris Fitzpatrick, also pointed to what he termed ethical considerations relating to complexities in pregnancy, which needed to be taken into account by experts in maternity services.
The chairman of St Vincent’s, James Menton, said that the fears of interference in obstetric care by a [Roman] Catholic religious ethos were groundless. In a statement to the staff at St Vincent’s, he said: “It is regrettable that media sources have been fed a groundless, sensational tale of nuns attempting to control Irish maternity services.”
Mr Menton said that the work of NMH consultants would not in any way be compromised by the values and ethos of St Vincent’s, which he described as in no way inconsistent with all such services legally available in Ireland.
The most recent National Maternity Strategy upholds the principle that voluntary maternity hospitals should hold on to their own governance structures and mastership of clinical issues.
Planning applications relating to the proposed new maternity unit at St Vincent’s, now at an advanced stage, cannot be progressed further until the dispute between the two boards has been solved.