Micheál Martin was told that the issue of land ownership of the National Maternity Hospital is a “defining moment” for its leaders and for the country.
Ds told the Taoiseach that he must be prepared to issue a Campus-wide Mandatory Purchase Order (CPO) at the St Vincent Hospital site in Dublin, where the new NMH is to be co-located.
Labor leader Alan Kelly said it was a ‘seismic’ moment and Irish society was at a crossroads after the refusal to relinquish ownership of the land by the St Vincent Hospital Group, which involves the Sisters of Charity. This Catholic religious order originally established and ruled Saint Vincent.
Mr Martin said he did not accept the group’s argument that he needed ownership of the land to ensure standards of care in the future. “Site ownership is not critical for that. I don’t think the arguments stack up at all, ”he said.
Mr. Martin called on the St Vincent Hospital Group to reflect on the views of the Oireachtas and the public interest. The health minister was starting discussions with stakeholders, he added.
SVHG insisted that there would be no interference in the provision of procedures such as abortion or fertility treatment in hospital. But he also insisted on the fact that he must own the land in order to ensure the continuity of care between the new public hospital and the Saint-Vincent hospital existing on the same campus.
Le Taoiseach said a CPO was “easily requested” as TD urged it to act urgently. “Are everyone in the House ready to say that we will wait a number of more years while conditions deteriorate?” [in the existing facility at Holles Street], “He asked.” We know how long CPOs last? “
But Mr Kelly said the statement by the St Vincent Hospital Group on maintaining ownership of the land was “two fingers away from you, to your minister, to me, to everyone in this room and to the Irish people” .
And Sinn Féin leader Mary Lou McDonald said a message should be sent to the Sisters of Charity, “with the utmost respect for them.” It is the beginning, the middle and the end. She accused the Taoiseach of having ambiguity about what we were going to do.
Mr Kelly said the Taoiseach should “listen to your deputy minister” of the Department of Health, Mary Butler, who said of the statement issued by the SVHG: “The letters C, P and O come to me. mind.”
The Taoiseach spoke of governance arrangements, “but you’re not saying this is a public hospital on public land.”
The hospital group “was doing everything they could, trying to push you and the ministry into a corner,” he said.
“You must fight on behalf of the Irish people. It’s a seismic moment, we are at a crossroads. It is a seismic moment for the Irish people and the state, and the government must stand up.
“We should CPO the whole site. “
She said the government had put most of the funding and investment in the hospital, with “hundreds of millions” to be spent at the site, where work was already underway.
The SVHG’s statement was therefore “in my opinion not at all an appropriate response”. Rather, it should engage in “a respectful engagement with the funder, with the taxpayer and the Irish people, who are represented by the government of the day.”
“This is my position.
Ms McDonald said there were other ghosts showing up, citing the one at the National Children’s Hospital being built on the site of St James’s Hospital. Project costs for the new national maternity hospital have also exploded, increasing by 500 million euros to a new estimated price of 800 million euros. It was therefore feared that it could easily exceed one billion euros in the long term.
The Taoiseach said there was no point in circulating such large numbers when tenders were underway for the new NMH. But he was “keenly aware and keenly aware” that conditions at the current Holles Street facility were “less than optimal”.