Thursday, 20 January 2022
National Maternity Hospital: Motion [Private Members]
I commend the Independent Group on tabling this motion. The ownership and governance of the new national maternity hospital are issues of national importance. They are also of great local interest to the community in Dublin Bay South. For decades the National Maternity Hospital has been based in Holles Street, in the heart of inner city Dublin. The local community has an enormous sense of connection to the hospital. Many in the community took their first breath in that hospital, and I am one of them. A large number of people from the community either work there or have members of their family working there. From talking to these people I have heard first-hand accounts of the difficulties staff are facing. It is a very tight site in which they are trying to run a big operation.
There is an urgent need for a new and more modern building to give staff and mothers the support they need. The new national maternity hospital will be based not far from Holles Street on the Elm Park campus of St. Vincent's University Hospital. This new maternity hospital will be a costly investment for the State and see the provision of state-of-the-art equipment and a much-needed modernised building. However, this process cannot be rushed through and we must ensure this large-scale State investment is protected from outside interference. The best safeguard of all is to ensure the full public ownership of this new maternity hospital.
There are many people deeply concerned about potential interference by religious orders at this new maternity hospital. Concerns that the governance and religious ethos of St. Vincent's could limit the procedures at the new site are understandable. Safeguards must be put in place to ensure patients can freely access the treatments they require. The possibility that organisations separate to the State might interfere to prevent certain treatments cannot be allowed. The State must guarantee that any lawful service the hospital is expected to provide will not be restricted on any non-medical grounds, and the best guarantee of all would be full public ownership of the new national maternity hospital.