Government ‘listening’ on maternity hospital deal

A model of the planned new National Maternity Hospital.

Additional clarity on the Government deal to locate a new national maternity hospital at the St Vincent’s Hospital site in Dublin would be “welcomed by many”, Minister for Further and Higher Education Simon Harris has said.

Mr Harris said the recent debate about the ownership of the site “has been very useful” in airing issues surrounding the agreement between the hospital owners St. Vincent’s Holdings CLG and the State.

Government sources confirmed that work is under way on a legal codicil which would clarify a statement in the documents that says procedures would be available in the hospital where “clinically appropriate and legally permissible”.

Asked if such a legal codicil should be added to the agreement, Mr Harris said any further clarifications and assurances that the Government could provide would be welcome.

Speaking in Dublin on Saturday, Mr Harris said: “I think the last two weeks has been very useful, a useful opportunity to put documents out there, putting information out there. I think the Government will reflect now on all of the important issues that people have raised particularly that phrase ‘clinically appropriate’.

“It was always a phrase that was meant to show that the National Maternity Hospital would be just that – a maternity hospital. But I think any additional clarifications or assurances that the Government can provide when it makes a decision on Tuesday, would be welcomed by many.

“The Government is listening, the Government will reflect. I want to see this project progress, I really do and I expect a decision to be made on Tuesday. We will reflect between now and then on how we can provide the highest level of assurance possible.”

On Friday, Green Party Minister Catherine Minister gave her backing to the relocation of the new NMH for the first time, paving the way for full Cabinet approval on Tuesday.

In a statement, Ms Martin said she had received reassurances from Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, the NMH, the Health Service Executive as well as St Vincent’s Healthcare Group.

In a letter sent to Ms Martin by St Vincent’s Hospital, the chair James Menton confirmed in writing that the following procedures would be available in the new NMH: “Termination of pregnancy, voluntarily sterilisation (tubal ligation), gender affirming care, fertility and assisted human reproduction treatments.”

NMH master Shane Higgins said he would support changes to legal documents around the relocation of the hospital, amid concerns about the contentious phrase about clinical appropriateness.

At a press briefing on Friday, Mr Higgins said the NMH would support either defining the term “clinically appropriate” or removing it.

Mr Higgins also restated that there would be no religious ethos in the new NMH.

“We don’t believe there will be any impact on the services we provide through any Catholic ethos, or any other ethos for that matter.”

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