asked the Minister for Health the date on which an agreement was first entered into by a Government Department or Hospital Commission with the authorities of Saint Vincent's Hospital, Stephen's Green, concerning the proposed disposal of that hospital on the completion of the new hospital at Elm Park, Dublin 9; whether representations were made about such an agreement asking for its reconsideration in the period February, 1948, to February, 1951, and, if so, whether a decision was taken at that time altering fundamentally the provisions of that agreement; if not, whether at any time since then the original agreement was altered and, if so, in what respect and by whose authority.
Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Disposal of Dublin Hospital.
The legal agreement entered into by the then Minister for Health with the Irish Sisters of Charity concerning the conditions on which a grant was provided from the Hospitals Trust Fund towards the cost of the new St. Vincent's Hospital at Elm Park was dated the 12th of May, 1954. One of these conditions was that, if the old St. Vincent's Hospital was not continued in use as a public charitable hospital, the market value or proceeds of an actual sale of those buildings would be paid into the Hospitals Trust Fund.
Representations were made in the period February, 1948-February, 1951, mentioned in the question, to have certain revisions made in the draft of an agreement which was then under consideration. One of these proposed revisions sought the retention by the Sisters of the old hospital buildings. This revision was not agreed to, and the draft was eventually finalised and executed in 1954.
In 1965 the then Minister for Health, the late Donogh O'Malley, had discussions with the Sisters and it was agreed that in consideration of the handing over by the Sisters to the State of certain properties in the Lower Leeson Street-Leeson Lane area, which had not figured in previous discussions, as well as the granting by the Sisters earlier of the site at Elm Park, the Sisters would be released from the requirement of the 1954 agreement relating to the repayment to the Hospitals Trust Fund of the market value of proceeds of the sale of the old hospital. An indenture amending the 1954 agreement accordingly is in final stages of drafting.
In view of the fact that the Sisters were satisfied with the arrangements, arrived at in 1948 and 1951, why was it found necessary, or what additional arguments were advanced by the authorities, to deprive the Sweep funds or the State of the moneys coming from the sale of this hospital?
The Sisters offered the site for the new hospital and until 1965 the disposal of the property at Leeson Street and Leeson Lane had never entered into the picture and so, because of the offering of the site and because they were willing to give the funds arising from the sale of the Leeson Street-Leeson Lane property, the then Minister for Health decided that they should be allowed to dispose of the value of the property of the St. Stephen's Green hospital in their own right and I understand that the moneys will be used, as in the case of the Sisters of Charity, for hospital purposes.
Surely, this is an extraordinary principle to permit, that an organisation—I do not care who they are, whether they are religious orders or others—lay people do just as good work in hospital services—should be allowed to sell off property, keep the money, and then be given a 100 per cent grant to build a new hospital? Why was it adopted by the Minister?
I see no reason why we should not adopt it. The Sisters of Charity control and operate 1,000 beds in this city——
Do not talk about Sisters of Charity. Let us talk about hospital authorities.
——in the interests of the poor, the sick, the disadvantaged, the children, the blind and the deaf, and I see no reason why they should not be given the responsibility for disposing of the funds arising from the St. Stephen's Green hospital, in the interests of hospital development.
Is it not a fact——
We cannot discuss this question all evening.
——that the Hospitals Sweep Fund, according to the Minister, is bankrupt to the extent of about £8 million which has to be paid from the taxpayers' pockets? In these circumstances, why should special conditions be made in respect of this hospital and not in respect of the many other hospitals that are in just as great need and, indeed, in much greater need, of money than this hospital, because this happens to be a very wealthy Order?
Taking into account the disposal of the Hospitals Trust Fund, it is true that the Hospitals Trust Fund, because of the very large deficits in the operation of the voluntary hospitals, became unable by itself to subsidise the capital development required for other hospitals but I am still satisfied that the funds available to the Sisters of Charity will be used to good effect. I have no reason to suppose the contrary.
If they were not the Sisters of Charity I wonder whether they would get so much charity from this Government.