Dáil debates

Thursday, 12 May 2022

National Maternity Hospital: Statements


1:15 pm

Photo of Jennifer Carroll MacNeillJennifer Carroll MacNeill (Dún Laoghaire, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I was supposed to have six minutes.

I have been a patient of the National Maternity Hospital. My constituency includes the National Maternity Hospital. My son has been a long-term critically-ill patient of the neo-natal care unit. I am one who knows well exactly how deficient the National Maternity Hospital can be and has been.

I thank the Minister for his engagement with me over the past year. It is particularly in relation to the public interest directors and increasing their number from one to three. It has been necessary because the current structure, as I have said in this House, is not open enough to those who raise complaints and concerns.

I would very much like to see this hospital go ahead. Obviously, like many other people and like the Minister, I would like to see public ownership of it but that has not been possible. Can I get to 95% happy?

The questions around religious influence were answered in large part for me by speaking to one of the doctors this week about the provision of HIV services in the HIV clinic in St. Vincent's that is operating daily, giving out free condoms and providing PrEP medication for gay men, in particular, 40 or 50 times a day, with absolutely no religious influence. I spoke to a doctor on the ethics committee who assures me that there has been no religious influence in his work over the past number of years. I accept that and the need for the hospital is clear.

I also accept the position in relation to freehold versus leasehold. Obviously, good legal title to any property in this country is either freehold or leasehold with 70 years left to run. Anybody who has bought a house or an apartment will have gone through that process. If I were to buy an apartment and there was a leasehold title with more than 100 years left to run, that is perfectly good title equivalent to freehold. This is a leasehold title with 299 years and I accept that as being appropriately good title.

Perhaps in part because of the constraints while the Minister is in negotiations, the communication of these issues has been only in the past two weeks. I can understand why that may be so but it has impacted upon trust. Women are already distrustful of some of the maternity hospitals. They are already distrustful, for very good reasons, of religious institutions. Their recent experience of the differential treatment in different hospitals of maternity services during Covid has amplified that distrust. An inability to access equally abortion services across the country in HSE hospitals has impacted upon that trust. Not only women, people across Ireland want to know and they want to get answers. This pause in this period has been useful.

I will be going back to my constituents - I had planned to do it today - to answer the different question.

I will be going back to my constituents with the answers I have to their questions about, for example, compulsory purchase orders, CPOs, leasehold and freehold, and the term "clinically appropriate and legally permissible".

Without being able to go into it, I want to acknowledge that it has been possible to provide better and better answers. As somebody who was waiting to see the constitutional document of the new national maternity hospital, I do believe more can be done. I appreciate the Minister does not want to reopen negotiations but he could get agreement to an addendum to the constitutional document specifying a non-exhaustive list of those services that shall be provided in the hospital. He could also advance funding for a centre for reproductive excellence at the site to be a leader in this area and so that people could see our commitment. He could also find ways to roster out the conscientious objection problem that can limit access to services not just in the new national maternity hospital but across HSE services more generally. There is also capacity within the Government decision for the Minister to come back to the Dáil when the hospital is built to update the House on the services that are being provided in the national maternity hospital every year. It is about ensuring trust. I have a little more research to do but I am at 95% on this. The hospital is needed.


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