Statement from the Minister for Health, Simon Harris TD, on the new National Maternity Hospital
I am absolutely committed to building a new National Maternity Hospital which is so badly needed by women and their babies in this country.
After many years of failed attempts, I was delighted when, late last year, the two voluntary hospitals involved agreed to work together to make this happen and to ensure co-location between maternity and acute adult services.
I remain grateful to them and to Kieran Mulvey for their tireless work in coming to an agreement ensuring absolute clinical independence. I have also welcomed the statement by the Board of the St.Vincent’s Healthcare Group earlier this week which reaffirmed this clinical independence.
The agreement also has robust measures to protect the State’s investment, in line with well established practice, and a new role for the Health Minister of the day in terms of a “golden share” – something which in my view is an improvement on the current reality in maternity services.
This week, I asked for a period of time to allow me and my officials to work with both hospitals and report back to the Government, the Oireachtas and to the public at the end of May.
I want to be very clear that I want this time to pursue solutions that address the issue of the ownership of the facility, that is the new NMH. The agreement reached between the hospitals recognised that the State will require a “lien” on the new facility in accordance with whatever funding agreements are in place by the State for such capital projects. Different options have been used in the past in doing this and I believe there is potential to devise creative and acceptable solutions that will provide further reassurance regarding the ownership of these facilities which will be paid for by the State.
As we’ve seen through this process and most particularly in recent weeks, the structure of our health service is diverse and complex. A conversation has now started in Ireland regarding this. That is a good thing and I want to separately put in place a process to facilitate that broader conversation which is long overdue and which will, rightfully, take some time.
This process can be expected to raise a broad range of complex policy issues that will need to be addressed on a general basis within the health service into the future.
However the need for a new NMH is beyond doubt and that is why we must work now on the issues to be addressed so it can proceed.
To facilitate this I do respectfully ask for a short period of time to work with Holles Street and St.Vincent’s to provide further detail on the arrangements which could be put in place to address issues of public concern, which I have heard very clearly.