Minister Catherine Martin backs NMH decision, clearing way for Cabinet approval

Green Party Minister Catherine Minister backed the National Maternity Relocation (NMH) project for the first time.

In a statement this afternoon, Ms Martin said she had received assurances from Health Minister Stephen Donnelly, the NMH, HSE and St Vincent’s Healthcare Group about care at the new hospital.

His support for the move paves the way for full Cabinet approval next week.

“I am confident that following the assurances received, including the written assurances I have received containing the further clarifications required, including from St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, this has resulted in greater transparency around this project,” said Ms Martin.

“I now believe that safeguards and protections are there to protect services for women.”

In a letter sent to Ms Martin by St Vincent’s Hospital, President James Menton confirmed in writing that the following procedures will be available in the new NMH: “Termination of pregnancy, voluntary sterilization (tubal ligation), affirming care gender, fertility and assisted human reproductive treatments.

Concerns have been raised that the lack of state ownership of the land on which the new hospital is to be built could leave it open to religious interference.

The controversy over the hospital’s ownership and governance structure has been ongoing for almost two weeks now, since the health minister’s memo to Cabinet was blocked to allow further scrutiny of the arrangement.

“Legally authorized”

Taoiseach Micheál Martin today said the phrase ‘legally authorised’ is ‘very clear’ that any legal procedure in Ireland must be carried out at the new hospital.

Speaking to reporters in Sallins, Co Kildare, at the opening of 29 new homes, he defended the deal as clear enough to ensure all procedures would take place at the hospital.

“‘Legally permitted’ is very clear – everything legal in this country must be provided in the new hospital, and is currently provided in Holles Street,” he said.

“Safeguards are cast in relation to all legally authorized services made available at the hospital. The constitution of the new hospital is very strong in terms of all the services made available. In addition, the HSE Operating License (provides additional safeguards).

“Especially the clinicians at the hospital whom I listen to a lot. Many women involved in maternity, midwifery and midwifery are unanimous that this hospital must move forward in the interest of the health of women in the country.

The memorandum approving the co-location of the National Maternity Hospital on the St Vincent’s Elm Park campus is due to be presented to Cabinet again next week.

The hospital is currently in a 130-year-old building on Holles Street in Dublin city center which has been criticized as unfit for use.

The main calls from activists and opposition TDs at the moment are to clarify the term “clinically appropriate” and to push for outright ownership of the land on which the hospital is to be built.

Earlier, National Maternity Hospital master Shane Higgins told a press briefing that he would support changes to the legal documents regarding the hospital’s move amid concerns over the controversial phrase on relevance clinical.

Government sources have confirmed to The Irish Times that work is underway on a legal addendum which would clarify a statement in the documents that the procedures will be available in hospital where “clinically appropriate and legally permitted”.

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