Saturday, June 19, 2021

Digital Desk Staff

The final bill for the National Maternity Hospital is now expected to reach €800 million, as fresh controversy emerged over claims the State attempted to purchase land for the hospital from an order of nuns.

As The Irish Times reports, politicians were briefed on Thursday that several attempts had been made to purchase the site.

The Religious Sisters of Charity said it had “never at any point been contacted by Government or the State to discuss purchasing the site”.

St Vincent’s Hospital Group (SVHG) – on whose campus the new hospital is to be located – said in a statement: “At no stage was any proposal or approach to sell the land, meaningful or otherwise, received or considered by the board of SVHG.”

However, a letter sent to the Department of Health in May 2017 by St Vincent’s, suggests a sale had been broached.

In a section which argues that separation of ownership or governance would disrupt care for patients, the letter states: “This is why SVHG cannot countenance any sale or lease of part of the land on site, or any separate ownership of a hospital on site”.

It states its concerns on ownership stem from the operation of a “safe, integrated system of governance and medical protocols”.

Stalled progress

A spokeswoman for SVHG said: “No meaningful approach was received or considered by the board. All this letter demonstrates is that we let it be known why we could not consider a land sale.”

Concerns over governance arrangements at the hospital have stalled progress for years, while cost projections have grown.

Originally in the region of €150 million, the most recent estimate was in the region of €350 million, with a firm expectation that it would rise further.

On Friday, a spokesman for Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly said: “The building infrastructure cost has been priced at €500 million. Further commissioning costs, including fit-out and transferring an entire hospital to a new site, will be a further €300 million.”

Aside from costs, the complex row over the project has its roots in concerns over whether Catholic ethos could constrain the new hospital from carrying out abortions, sterilisations or other procedures contrary to Vatican teaching.

The site is to be transferred to a charitable entity called St Vincent’s Holdings. Campaigners have criticised the structure of the deal and claimed the hospital may be constrained in the procedures it can carry out

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