State free not to fund voluntary hospitals that refuse to provide certain lawful services

By Conall Ó Fátharta
Irish Examiner Reporter

The State is free not to fund voluntary hospitals and health organisations that refuse to provide certain lawful services.

That's according to a Government-commissioned report on the current role and status of voluntary organisations in the operation of health and personal social services in Ireland.

The report, by a review group chaired by Dr Catherine Day, said that the State is legally entitled to attach reasonable conditions to any funding it provides and is free not to provide funding to organisations that refuse to provide certain lawful services.

It pointed out that the issue of what services are to be provided and funded by the State has come under the spotlight in the aftermath of the referendum to repeal the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution.

However, the report warned that a decision to attach conditions or refuse funding is "essentially a political [decision] rather than a legal one" and that withholding funding would cause "serious and prolonged disruption" to the health service and the public who use them.

The report said there is "a strained relationship" and a "breakdown in mutual trust and respect" between the voluntary sector and the State, represented by the HSE as the funding agency.

The report also states that voluntary organisations in receipt of state funding should be cognisant of the impact of "religious décor" on patients and service users and "strive to ensure that their personal preferences in this regard are met to the greatest extent possible".

However, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar dismissed reports that Church-run hospitals would be told to remove religious symbols as wide of the mark.

“It’s not a campaign from the Government or anyone around removing cribs or crucifixes or statues of Our Lady - that’s not what’s going to happen,” he told Newstalk.

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