Thursday, 20 January 2022
National Maternity Hospital: Motion [Private Members]
There appears to be an endless saga with the new national maternity hospital as it continues its long, involved journey to completion. It has been beset by a series of incidents from its conception almost ten years ago, when it was planned to relocate the hospital from its current location on the Holles Street campus to a new site. The story of the National Maternity Hospital is one of a project long in planning but beset by delays, complications and justified concerns about its governance and ownership. That has stalled progress on the project for years. Experienced mediators have been brought in to try to find a way through the muddle and put the project on a clear path to completion.
Adding to the concerns about governance arrangements at the hospital is the eye-watering escalation in the cost of its construction. The project was originally to have cost approximately €150 million. The cost of the building infrastructure is now being put at €500 million with an added cost of €300 million for commissioning costs, which are to include the fit-out and transferring the hospital to a new site. All told, the cost of the hospital has gone from the original target of €150 million to €800 million.
The site is to be transferred to a charitable entity called St. Vincent's Holdings. This has raised concerns about the potential for a Catholic ethos governing the hospital, which could inhibit the new hospital carrying out procedures that are contrary to Catholic teaching. It is reasonable to argue that it should be owned by the State to protect and maintain the hospital's secular ethos. The Government has to protect its investment and it must be able to justify the expenditure of such enormous sums of public money on this major project by ensuring that the hospital's administration, operation and oversight reflect both the values and inclusiveness of a secular State body. To do any less could potentially lead to unfair and prejudicial treatment of people as well as creating a hierarchy of patients. We cannot allow this to happen. We cannot allow one viewpoint based on a religious ethos to supersede that of a secular State. The Government must ensure that this never happens.