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National Maternity Hospital, why Government’s deal with St Vincent’s Holdings is no good

On Thursday 5 May 2022 our Taoiseach Micheál Martin told our TDs a lot more about the deal our Government and Department of Health propose to make with St Vincent’s Holdings CLG, about building our new National Maternity Hospital that is set to be next to St Vincent’s Hospital in Dublin 4.

We now have enough information, from the Government, to show to our TDs and Senators how the plan is ridiculously elaborate, is likely to go wrong, and is quite unlike the normal and natural plan for a democratic secular state to build a very important hospital for all the people. The documents which we can read do not guarantee that the new National Maternity Hospital will exclude prohibition of treatments of which the Roman Catholic church does not approve.

  1. The St Vincent’s Holdings CLG promises to do healthcare through St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, and the Healthcare Group clearly must follow the mission and core values of Mary Aikenhead its founder
  2. The Lease which the St Vincent’s Holdings has proposed to the State will cost us €10 per year, but if the State ever tries to buy the freehold, St Vincent’s Holdings will make us pay €850,000 rent per year
  3. There is enough information available now that a reasonable TD or Senator will vote against this deal, and will favour building our new National Maternity Hospital on freehold land entirely in our control through our Department of Health and our Health Service.

Visit, email, message, or call all the TDs and Senators in your constituency and tell them to stop this ridiculously twisted plan that is almost sure to let the Roman Catholic church limit the service that we and the next generations of people can obtain – and to instead build the new National Maternity Hospital on land which we and our Government own in freehold

CLG means Company Limited by Guarantee.

The Religious Sisters of Charity, and the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (which the Sisters own, and which has owned St Vincent’s public hospital Dublin 4, St Vincent’s private hospital Dublin 4, and St Michael’s hospital Dún Laoghaire) in recent weeks have transferred the 3 hospitals and the adjoining land in Elm Park Dublin 4 to this new company St Vincent’s Holdings CLG. That land includes the land on which the National Maternity Hospital was to be built.

Here are 2 important facts, and it is the rent in the Lease which our Government told to our TDs that creates the greatest tie on how the new hospital will operate.

A Lease for 299 years, with annual rent €10, or, if the State does not follow 6 conditions, €850,000

You can read the 6 conditions in the Journal and in the Irish Times, and the Lease itself. Some newspapers have called these conditions 1 to 6, but in the lease they are (a) to (f).
Condition (f) creates the greatest limit, that the Health Service Executive (HSE) does not try to acquire the St Vincent’s Holdings’ interest, that is, does not try to acquire the freehold. Conditions (a) to (e) are about the State keeping a hospital there and not using the land for anything else.
Here is Condition (f) –
(f) the Tenant does not exercise a right pursuant to the Landlord and Tenant
Acts to (i) extend the term of the Lease (ii) acquire a reversionary lease or (iii)
seek to acquire the Landlords interest
.

Condition 6 reveals a great drive to tie our Government and State, particularly to stop the State owning the freehold, or to penalise us if we try to do that. If our Government succeeds in the future in buying the freehold, there will no rent, but if it tries and fails, the St Vincent’s Holdings’ will penalise us €850,000 per year thereafter for trying.

Clinically Appropriate, in the Constitution of St Vincent’s Holdings

At page 2, section 3 “Main Object”, of the Constitution of St Vincent’s Holdings CLG, the Main Object is to advance healthcare in Ireland, and provide patient care. Its patient care will comply with the laws of Ireland and with national and international best practice guidelines on medical ethics.
At the foot of Page 2, section 4 “Subsidiary Aims” begins, while all the particular subsidiary aims are on Page 3.
At page 3, section 4.6, St Vincent’s Holdings CLG will be true to its core values – this means the core values of St Vincent’s Holdings.
(a) Human Dignity: respect the dignity and uniqueness of each person
(b) Compassion: accept people as they are, bring empathy and care to all
(c) Justice: act with integrity which respects the rights of all
(d) Quality: strive for excellence in all aspects of care
(e) Advocacy: speak for the voiceless, act with and for them to achieve the appropriate quality of care

You could consider if the appropriate quality of care is what the individual doctor would give, the care which the person who attends the hospital desires, if that is a termination of pregnancy; or will the St Vincent’s Holdings’ view of appropriate quality of care prevail, and a termination would then not be appropriate though that is what the person desires.
A person might also consider if the “national and international best practice guidelines on medical ethics” are the guidelines of the World Health Organisation (WHO), or, are the guidelines of the Roman Catholic church (which is also international). We don’t know.
The Constitution of St Vincent’s Holdings CLG does not mention the Roman Catholic church or the Religious Sisters of Charity, or any principles which they have followed. We know that both the Church and the Sisters have had ethical rules that prohibit abortions, sterilisations, and in-vitro fertilisations (IVF).
At page 3, section 4.4, St Vincent’s Holdings CLG states that it will advance medical education, promote medical research and patient care in all areas of medicine through the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group …

The Constitution of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group starts with this –
Preamble: St Vincent’s Hospital, the first hospital of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, founded by Mary
Aikenhead as part of her mission to provide Service to the Poor. It was funded by a fellow Sister’s
dowry, was established in a house on St Stephen’s Green in 1834.
In the continuation of the fulfilment of this mission St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group will strive to:

– followed by Core Values that are similar to those in St Vincents’ Holdings’ constitution.
I think that Mary Aikenhead’s mission and core values were to give healthcare according to the principles (and limits) of the Roman Catholic church.

Thus it is clear that we have no guarantee that the new National Maternity Hospital will have secular ethics and a secular version of what is clinically appropriate, though the draft NMH Constitution‘s Principal Object explicitly excludes any religious ethos. The HSE wrote this draft. However, the NMH Constitution can hardly stand legally higher than the Lease which allows our Health Service to possess the land.

A List of Procedures that will be Permitted in the new Hospital could not include reproductive procedures that have not yet been developed

To ensure the continuation of all present procedures, in the present National Maternity Hospital, which the Roman Catholic church prohibits, some people have proposed a list, and the Lease or Contract would specify these as to continue to be performed.
This will not deal with reproductive procedures that have not been invented yet. It is possible that testes and ovaries grown in laboratory containers, from stem cells from one person of a gay couple, could be done. This would let the couple both be biological parents of their child. You might imagine some other procedure that can’t be done now, but will become possible in the future.

Thus the solution of a list of particular procedures to definitely be allowed will not be a solution to the interference of Roman Catholic ethos in the hospital.

So – visit, email, message, or call all the TDs and Senators in your constituency and tell them to stop this ridiculously twisted plan that is almost sure to let the Roman Catholic church limit the service that we and the next generations of people can obtain – and to instead build the new National Maternity Hospital on land which we and our Government own in freehold

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