Following approaches from NAMA, my Department examined the possibility of acquiring Mount Carmel Hospital as a going concern. However, it was clear from the outset that the purchase of Mount Carmel as a stand-alone maternity hospital, or as a maternity unit in a non-acute setting, would not be in line with current Government policy. Government policy on maternity services is based on the premise that for optimal clinical outcomes, maternity services should be co-located with adult acute services, or in the case of neonatology and foetal medicine, tri-located with adult and paediatric services. The low volume of births in the hospital was also an issue, as best practise and the development of excellence in patient care and safety is predicated on high volume of patient throughput, in accordance with international norms.
In addition, as my Department is currently developing a new National Maternity Strategy, I believe that it would be premature at this stage, in advance of considerations regarding the future models of maternity service provision, to make any decisions in relation to securing additional maternity service capacity in any part of the country.
In terms of the capacity of the HSE to deal with the additional service demands on the closure of the hospital, the Deputy may wish to note that birth rates have fallen significantly in recent years and the CSO projects that birth rates will continue to fall at least until the early 2020s. In the longer term, the move of the National Maternity Hospital from Holles Street to the St Vincent’s campus together with the development of the new maternity hospital tri-located on the St James’s campus, will afford us the opportunity to provide additional maternity services capacity, if required.