Belfast Telegraph

Church 'will not decide on care' at new National Maternity Hospital

The Catholic Church will not decide on the care of mothers and babies at the new National Maternity Hospital, it has been claimed.

The St Vincent's Hospital Group (SVHG) said the new 300 million euro facility will carry out all medical procedures legally available in the Republic.

"Continuing to suggest that procedures currently undertaken at NMH will not be available in the new maternity hospital is entirely false and without foundation," chairman James Menton said.

"In line with current policy and procedures at SVHG, any medical procedure which is in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Ireland will be carried out at the new hospital."

The Sisters of Charity owns the valuable land at St Vincent's in Dublin where the National Maternity Hospital is to be built and the order is the shareholder of the SVHG.

Under a complex arrangement revealed in recent weeks the nuns are due to own the new facility even though it is fully state funded.

This sparked concerns over the role the nuns would play in the governance of the hospital and whether they would commit to allowing abortions, contraception or IVF treatment.

Ambiguity deepened when Bishop Kevin Doran said that the Sisters would have to obey church law as owners, regardless of how the facility is funded, and that governance rests with the Pope.

Dr Peter Boylan, a former Master at Holles Street, was asked to resign from the board of the current National Maternity Hospital after speaking out about the nuns' involvement.

The respected obstetrician questioned whether clinical care, including abortions or IVF treatment, would be influenced by their religious beliefs and said it is inappropriate for a hospital to have a strong religious influence, particularly from the Catholic Church.

Mr Boylan rejected calls from the chair of the current National Maternity Hospital to resign.

The terms of the deal on the new National Maternity Hospital, which was brokered with the Sisters of Charity last November, were supposed to be confidential.

The SVHG chairman Mr Menton described some of the concerns raised as " continued misinformation and untruthful allegations".

"The primary concern of the Board of Directors of SVHG and of the Chartered Trust of the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) is the delivery of a modern maternity and neonatal service that is women and infant-centred and which is safe and world class," he said.

"The National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park, DAC, will deliver such a facility for the women of Ireland."

Mr Menton insisted clinical independence will be enshrined in contracts.

It is understood the nuns were not asked to sell the site to the state.

Tens of thousands of people have signed an online petition opposing any role or ownership for the nuns of the new facility.

There will be nine people on the board of the new National Maternity Hospital - four nominated by the St Vincent's Hospital Group which is owned by the Sisters of Charity, four by the current National Maternity Hospital, including the Master, and it will be chaired by an international expert in obstetrics and gynaecology.

A decision on a planning application on the new hospital is due in August or September.

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