National Maternity Hospital: Motion (Resumed) [Private Members]

The following motion was moved by Deputy Róisín Shortall on Wednesday, 23 June 2021:
That Dáil Éireann:
notes that:
— in May 2013, the Government announced that the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) would move to Elm Park to co-locate with St. Vincent’s University Hospital (SVUH), based on the recommendation that maternity hospitals should co-locate with acute general hospitals;
— between 2013-2016, a dispute regarding co-location versus ownership arose between the NMH and St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG), which resulted in SVHG rejecting the proposal of co-location and adapting its position to demand full ownership of the NMH under SVHG;
— in May 2016, Kieran Mulvey was appointed to mediate the dispute between the two hospitals and the Mulvey Agreement on the Future Operation of the New Maternity Hospital – ‘The National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park DAC’ recommended the full transfer of 100 per cent ownership of the NMH to SVHG, owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity;
— following sustained public and political opposition to the deal, the Religious Sisters of Charity set up a new private company, St. Vincent’s Holdings (SVHs), into which they agreed to transfer their shareholdings of SVHG, and although SVHs was incorporated in August 2020, no transfer of ownership has yet taken place;
— under the proposed lease arrangement:
— the sole owners of the NMH (SVHs) will lease the site for the new hospital to the Health Service Executive (HSE) for 99 operating years;
— the State is required to build the maternity hospital on the land owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity and to pay, in perpetuity, the costs of the new facility set to be owned and managed by SVHs; and
— the key condition of this lease is that the HSE license SVHG to run the new maternity facility in tandem with the ‘National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park’;
— a new Board of SVHs is to be appointed in August 2021 and SVHs is a private company with charitable status, and its directors are its sole shareholders, all of whom are self-appointed, and there is no provision for a public interest director/ministerial representative, a women’s interest director, HSE representative, or any representation from the NMH itself on the Board of SVHs;
— the Board of the HSE is required to approve the transfer of the Religious Sisters of Charity’s shareholding in SVHG to SVHs, as it is a section 38 organisation and this approval has not yet been sanctioned;
— nearly four years after they first announced their intention to depart SVHG, the Religious Sisters of Charity remain the sole shareholders of SVHG and no legal agreement has been reached on the transfer of ownership; and
— under current proposals, only the shell of the hospital will be publicly owned and the State is to have no involvement in the private company set to own the new facility, nor any role in its operations;
further notes that:
— the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution of Ireland was repealed in May 2018, paving the way for safe and legal termination of pregnancy in Ireland and Catholic teaching is fully opposed to the provision of termination services;
— the 2017 SVHG Annual Report stated that future directors of SVHs will be ‘obliged to uphold the values and vision’ of Mother Mary Aikenhead, the founder of the Religious Sisters of Charity;
— the core values of the original SVHG constitution, which are based on Catholic ethos, are restated in full in the constitution of SVHs;
— the Religious Sisters of Charity received conditional permission from the Holy See to transfer their shareholding to the new company SVHs, with the proviso that ‘the provisions relating to the validity and lawfulness of alienations, found in Canons 638-639 and Canons 1292-1294 of the Code of Canon Law and in Proper Law, are to be observed’, and this requirement provides that the transfer of the Religious Sisters of Charity’s shareholding in SVHG must observe Canon Law and Canon 1293 paragraph 2 requires precautions to be taken to ‘avoid harm to the Church’ and the definition of harm expressly includes ‘activity which gives rise to grave harm to ecclesiastical teaching’; and
— the 2019 Report of the Independent Review Group established to examine the role of voluntary organisations in publicly funded health and personal social services concluded that, legally, the State cannot compel private Catholic entities to provide services that are contrary to their ethos;
furthermore, notes that:
— the cost of the construction of the NMH is likely to exceed €500 million; and
— the Religious Sisters of Charity’s holdings in SVHG were valued at €661 million in October 2018;
agrees that:
— the Catholic ethos of the proposed new facility can no longer be a matter of doubt;
— women’s reproductive healthcare would be put at risk and their safety endangered if subject to Catholic ownership and ethos;
— a hospital built using State funds should be fully owned and operated by the State;
— handing over ownership of a publicly funded hospital to a private company is in direct contradiction of the aims of Sláintecare; and
— where the State decides to build any new hospital or facility, it should endeavour to ensure that it owns the land on which the hospital or facility is built, as recommended in the Report of the Independent Review Group established to examine the role of voluntary organisations in publicly funded health and personal social services; and calls on the Government to ensure that the proposed new publicly-funded National Maternity Hospital is constructed on land owned by the State, and that, to guarantee its secular ethos and safeguard this public investment, the new hospital be fully owned and governed by the State.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
(a) To delete the following:
"— women’s reproductive healthcare would be put at risk and their safety endangered if subject to Catholic ownership and ethos;"
(b) To insert the following after "the new hospital be fully owned and governed by the State":
"and further:
— commits to no private healthcare services being carried out on the site of the new National Maternity Hospital, pursuant to the Private Members' Motion on National Maternity Services [Vol. 983, No. 8] brought in June 2019 by then Fianna Fáil Opposition Spokesperson on Health Stephen Donnelly, who is now the incumbent Minister for Health;
— calls on the Government to explain the reasons why, on occasion, in cases of medical negligence, brought against the National Maternity Hospital, the State has also provided, at a financial cost, legal defence to private clinics named alongside the National Maternity Hospital as defendants in certain court cases and to commit to ensuring that this does not happen going forward;
— criticises the continued spikes in cost of the National Maternity Hospital project, rising from an initial estimate of €150 million to €350 million, and now to in excess of €800 million, and calls for the Minister to come before the Dáil to explain the more than 500% increase in the projected cost of the new Hospital; and
— calls for the full provision of financial estimates and figures to the Oireachtas Public Accounts Committee and the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach."
- (Deputy Peadar Tóibín)

On the motion on the national maternity hospital, a division was claimed on Deputy Tóibín's amendment. I understand that Deputy Tóibín does not wish to press the amendment. Accordingly, with the leave of the House and notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, I declare that the question is not carried and that the amendment is lost.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion agreed to.