Thursday, 12 May 2022
National Maternity Hospital: Statements
It is important we are having this debate today. Regardless of one's views, the development of a new national maternity hospital is a major milestone in the delivery of women's healthcare in Ireland. The women of Ireland deserve better, and we are finally getting it.
I have not spoken on this topic too much to date. I have previously stated my concerns around how this project was developing and the need for the State to own the land and site. I have also flagged the potential need for a compulsory purchase order. However, having listened to the Minister, numerous clinicians and legal experts, my view has changed. I believe the current proposal is the best way forward to deliver this project for future generations.
We all agree a maternity hospital is needed and I hear the concerns being raised by the Opposition and stakeholders. However, I feel some of the information being shared on this issue is misdirecting the key objective, which is to get this hospital built.
On the central issue of leasing the site, it is important to note that many primary care centres around Ireland are in buildings and on land owned by, and leased from, third parties. Nobody would reasonably suggest these landowners dictate what services GPs or other clinicians do or do not offer. As the Minister said earlier, the State does not own the current national maternity hospital or leading hospitals, such as the Rotunda, the Coombe, the Mater, Cappagh, the eye and ear hospital or the Mercy hospital. They are public, voluntary hospitals funded by the HSE for their day-to-day operations. The HSE also invests in their buildings and equipment to ensure the delivery of much-needed public health services. The national maternity hospital will be the same.
I, too, had concerns about the potential for certain procedures being curtailed, but again I believe that issue has been cleared up sufficiently. I am confident the documents published last week clearly show that all procedures under the law that are currently provided at the National Maternity Hospital will be provided in the new maternity hospital in Elm Park. As already mentioned, that includes termination of pregnancy, provision of contraception services, including tubal ligation, fertility services and gender-affirmation procedures. The legal framework provides assurances that all clinical services permissible will be provided in clinical practice and will not be subject to any Catholic ethos, or indeed any other religious beliefs, but only according to the best national and international clinical guidelines. This is made clear in the lease, operating licence and constitution of the new national maternity hospital that were published last week.
We are finally on the cusp of getting a world-class facility where women and babies will have the best possible care in a secular hospital, free from religious ethos, where all legally permissible services are provided. The Government's proposal, the contracts and legal framework ensure this is protected, along with the public good, in this proposal. I recognise and hear the concerns being raised but I also hear the resounding endorsement of clinicians at the existing National Maternity Hospital for the new hospital, as outlined by the Minister. Like many others in this House today and those watching this debate, I agree that the existing hospital is not fit for purpose. The women of Ireland deserve better.
I know a woman who is currently attending the National Maternity Hospital having suffered multiple miscarriages. This woman has to walk corridors filled with expectant mothers, pass rooms of pregnant women waiting for scans and walk by doors bearing end-of-life symbols indicating that the woman inside the room is in the process of loss. She goes on this journey to get to the mental health unit so that a psychologist can help her to process her difficult miscarriage. The Victorian layout of the hospital at Holles Street is retraumatising women. The women of Ireland deserve better. We are on the cusp of better and it is time to move forward.