National Maternity Hospital: Board learned of ownership change through media

Update 5.30pm:A member of the board of St Vincent's Healthcare Group says they found out the Sisters of Charity is divesting its interests in the organisation through the media.

Cllr. Micheál MacDonncha says they have been given no information on how St Vincent's and the new National Maternity Hospital will be governed in future.

Cllr MacDonncha (pictured below) says the State now needs to buy the land to ensure it stays in public ownership.

"We received the news the same way as everybody else, which was through the media," he said.

"I haven't had any communication from the board or other members but I do welcome this development.

"I think it's a vindication of everybody who raised the red flag as the issue of clinical governance was a serious cause of concern."

Update 16.10pm: The new National Maternity Hospital is set to be given charitable status.

It comes after the Sisters of Charity announced it is giving up ownership of the St Vincent's Hospital Group and will instead sell its land at Elm Park in Dublin to a newly-formed organisation called St Vincent's for the new facility.

Health Minister Simon Harris is describing the announcement as a significant development.

Fergus Finlay (pictured below), who sits on the board of the newly-established Charities Regulator, says the new organisation will have to adhere to stringent regulations.

"Nobody can set up a charity in Ireland for nefarious purposes anymore," he said.

"If you set up a charity you have to establish, to the satisfaction of the regulator, that your object is charitable. If you're setting it up to hide profit, for example, you will not be allowed to get away with that."

Update 11.51am: Simon Harris has welcomed this morning’s statement in relation to the change of ownership of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group He noted that it was a very significant development for the healthcare sector.

Commenting on the announcement by the Religious Sisters of Charity that they intend ending their involvement with St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group, the Minister said “the timing of this historic decision is very welcome.

"It directly addresses concerns regarding the question of religious influence in the new National Maternity Hospital and further illustrates the constructive role of the Sisters to facilitate this landmark project," he said.

The Department of Health is continuing to engage with St Vincent’s Healthcare Group and the National Maternity Hospital in relation to the project. The Minister will update Government on the project next week.

Update 11.21am: The Sisters of Charity said they had spent the last two years trying to find the best way to give up their ownership of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG).

"Just as our Founder Mary Aikenhead saw the need in 1834 to establish a hospital to meet the needs of the sick and poor, we believe that it is in the best interests of the patients and children born in the National Maternity Hospital today that they be provided with modern maternity and neonatal services that are women and infant centred and integrated within the Elm Park campus," Sr Mary Christian, the leader of the order said.

"It is now time for us to relinquish completely our involvement in SVHG.

"We are confident that the board, management and staff of SVHG will continue to maintain a steadfast dedication to providing the best possible acute healthcare to patients and their families in line with the values espoused by Mary Aikenhead."

The potential involvement of nuns in the running and governance of a maternity hospital had caused deep unease in some medical circles and among the public. The controversy arose after details of a confidential deal emerged between the Sisters of Charity, the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, medics and management at the National Maternity Hospital and the Department of Health to build the new maternity hospital at St Vincent’s.

It would have seen the nuns give land at Elm Park for the new hospital but retain ultimate ownership under a complex corporate structure.

It prompted leading obstetrician Dr Peter Boylan, a former Master of Holles Street, to resign from the board of the current National Maternity Hospital. The St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) said the decision was a major development and reflected the wonderful legacy to healthcare that the Sisters of Charity have left.

Chairman James Menton said: "The Sisters have always held the highest ambitions for the provision of world class healthcare services in Ireland and have successfully achieved and sustained this.

"They also see the need for the proposed development of the new National Maternity Hospital integrated within the Elm Park campus and want to do everything possible to ensure this vital facility for mothers and babies is developed as quickly as possible."

Mr Menton said the healthcare group was absolutely committed to upholding the vision and values of Mary Aikenhead, dignity, compassion, justice, quality and advocacy.

The Sisters of Charity said St Vincent’s, the new charity being created, will replace the order as the shareholders in SVHG. The nuns will receive a "nominal or peppercorn" payment for transferring ownership to the new company and the two nuns who are currently on the SVHG board will resign.

They also said St Vincent’s will not be subject to undue influence by individuals or from any source and it will not seek to generate any profit or surplus or remunerate directors for their work. The National Maternity Hospital have released the following statement:

    "The National Maternity Hospital warmly welcomes the Statement from The Sisters of Charity and the Board of SVHG this morning. At all stages during the Kieran Mulvey mediation it was our clear understanding that the nuns never sought to exercise clinical control over the Hospital and that the independent ethos of the new National Maternity Hospital would be preserved on relocation to the SVHG campus.

    We have worked closely with St. Vincent’s University Hospital for generations and we would like to acknowledge the outstanding contribution of the Sisters of Charity to Irish Healthcare over so many years. We would also like to acknowledge the support of the Minister, Simon Harris and the Department of Health and our own Board and staff in being so steadfast during this process."

Update 10.16am: The Religious Sisters of Charity have announced they will give up ownership of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, including any stake in the new National Maternity Hospital. T

he nuns have confirmed they will give up their stake in the group and transfer it to a new charity, simply known as St Vincent’s. The charity will be run in the short term by a new board of directors drawn from the St Vincent’s Hospital Group, but a new independent board is to be appointed within 12 months.

The sisters have said the new charity’s board "will not be subject to undue influence by individuals or from any source". The news comes a day after the Health Minister Simon Harris said he would bring proposals to Cabinet about the ownership of the new maternity hospital this week.

Protestors holding up a petition in Dublin on May 5. Pic: Derek Speirs

Earlier: There are renewed calls for the Health Minister to outline the progress he has made regarding the ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital. Simon Harris asked for a month on April 28 to allow him to talk to the relevant stakeholders and review the agreement, which would see the facility built on land owned by the Sisters of Charity.

AIMS Ireland, which represents maternity service users, says that this month is now up and is demanding to know the outcome of the talks. Chairperson Krysia Lynch says they need to know whether the agreement will be acceptable to the public.

"When the Minister half makes a promise and says that after the month the situation will be reviewed, I think he owes the taxpayers, the people who are going to pay for this brand new maternity hospital, that answer once the month is up.

"The month is now up and there is one very clear question that has not been answered, that is what is the viewpoint from the Sister’s of Charity, the ones that actually own the land, what will they permit and not permit," she said.


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