Further to the Religious Sisters of Charity getting ‘sole ownership’ of the new National Maternity Hospital.
And the online petition, against the move, that has gained more than 75,000 names…
And the Sisters of Charity basing their decision not to pay redress to the Magdalene survivors based on the findings of the McAleese Report…
Readers may wish to recall the following reported by Conor Ryan and Clare O”Sullivan, in the Irish Examiner, back in February 2013…
The Sisters of Charity made €63m in sell-offs during the boom of which €45m came from the 2001 deal for land around its former laundry in Donnybrook, Dublin.
Last year, the Religious Sisters of Charity, who amassed a €233m property portfolio, said they could not afford to release €3m it promised to put into a trust fund for the victims of institutional child abuse.
The order blamed the decision to reduce its cash offer by 60% on the poor property market.
In 2009, when they supplied details of their assets to the Government, it had financial interests of €33m and sold €63m of property in 10 years. The order said it needed to set aside €38.6m to care for its 264 sisters.
From top: The former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr. Peter Boylan; NMH chairman Nicholas Kearns and From left: Kay Connolly, Chief Operating Officer of St Vincent’s Hospital, Minister for Health Simon Harris TD and Dr Rhona Mahony Master, National Maternity Hospital with a model of St Vincents University Hospital.
This morning on RTÉ Radio One’s Today with Sean O’Rourke the handover of the ownership of the National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity was discussed.
Rhona Mahony, Master of Holles Street, and Nicholas Kearns, chairman of the National Maternity Hospital defended the decision and addressed criticism from former Master of Holles Street Dr Peter Boylan
Sean O’Rourke: “The concern over the ownership and governance of the new National Maternity Hospital to be located at St Vincent’s Hospital at Elm Park, continues to grow. The new Minister for Health, Simon Harris, has said the hospital will have complete clinical, financial, budgetary and operational independence, however on Morning Ireland earlier, the former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Dr Peter Boylan, said that in his view it’s inappropriate for the State to invest 300 million Euro of taxpayers’ money into a new maternity hospital that would have a strong religious influence.
With me now in studio are the current Master of Holles Street Dr Rhona Mahony and the Chair of the Hospital Board or he’s de facto the Chair, former President of the High Court Nicholas Kearns who both represented Holles St in the negotiations with St Vincent’s Hospital. Good morning to you both, you’re both very welcome to the studio. First of all, Mr Kearns, are you surprised by the controversy that has engulfed this move .. several weeks, a couple of months after it was announced?”
Nicholas Kearns: “Very surprised. In Holles Street we are surprised and disappointed in particular by Dr Boylan’s late intervention in such a public way in this whole matter, it’s very difficult for us to understand, he’s a serving member of the Board, a board which voted by an overwhelming majority to approve this agreement, this is in a sense nothing new, the idea of moving to the campus in Elm Park has been there since 2003, through all these years that followed Dr Boylan has been working in the hospital up to his retirement last year, the proposal has been there, nothing has been changed, when these latest round of negotiations began in 2016 we spent up to six months battling for exactly the kind of independence and safety of the ethos and practice of Holles St we could possibly obtain and we are satisfied and I am satisfied, Sean, as a lawyer that the arrangements we have put in place for independence are legally accurate and sound.”
O’Rourke: “And that agreement, has it been published?”
Kearns: “The full terms of it have not been published, this was an exercise conducted on a confidential basis throughout by [workplace mediator] Kieran Mulvey.”
O’Rourke: “At this stage might help if the whole thing was published and put out there and people could decide.”
Kearns: “In effect, the Minister has disclosed the key elements in these reserved powers and I was frankly surprised that people are not reassured by the binding nature of these reserved powers, can I just run through them quickly? Firstly, as one of the main objectives for the agreement it provides that under this arrangement the new company, the hospital in Elm Park, will provide a range of health services in the community as heretofore, such operation and provision to be conducted in accordance with the newly agreed clinical governance arrangements for the National Maternity Hospital at Elm Park by providing as far as possible by whatever manner and means from time to time available for the health happiness and welfare of those accepted as patients without religious or ethnic or other distinction and by supporting the work of all involved in the delivery of care to such patients and their families or guardians including research or investigation which may further such work. Now just very quickly the reserved powers and then I’ll stop. Continue reading →
A religious congregation which has failed to date to provide its share of funds to a redress scheme for institutional abuse victims, is to be given ownership of the new €300 million State-funded National Maternity Hospital.
The Sisters of Charity are the shareholders of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group which the Department of Health said will be the “sole owner of the new hospital” which is to be built on a site at Elm Park in south Dublin.
The relocation of the hospital from Holles Street to the St Vincent’s hospital campus involves the largest single investment ever made in maternity services in the State.
…A department spokesman said the “autonomy of the national maternity hospital board will be underpinned by reserved powers to ensure clinical and operational independence, and the Minister for Health will hold the power to protect those reserved powers”.
Minister for Health Simon Harris with middle pic, from left: St Vincent’s Chief Operating Officer Kay Connolly and Dr Rhona Mahony, Master at Holles Street, with a model of St Vincent’s University Hospital and how the new National Maternity Hospital might fit into the existing complex in Mount Merrion. Plans were submitted to An Bord Planeala today.
Contrary to the claims made by Dylan Tighe (May 7th), symphysiotomy is not, and never has been, a procedure promoted by the Catholic Church.
It was an exceptionally rare medical procedure (accounting for 0.05 deliveries out of every hundred) used until the danger of infection caused by Caesarean section was, thanks to the development of antibiotics, removed, except at Our Lady’s of Lourdes Hospital, Drogheda, where it was used until the mid-1980s.
According to the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists (2010/2012), the technique is still taught “as an emergency procedure on the ‘Management of Obstetric Emergencies and Trauma’ course of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, London, which many consultants and trainees have attended”.
While it is true that in 1948 Dr Alex Spain, a master of the National Maternity Hospital, did reference what he called the Catholic “rule” on contraception and sterilisation as one of several justifications for resorting to symphysiotomy in a tiny minority of births, it is simply not true to say that this procedure was used mainly for reasons that had to do with Catholic teaching, much less that the procedure was promoted by the Catholic Church or by Catholic moral theologians.
In the moral theology textbooks I consulted, old or recent, it was not even mentioned.
The ethos of religious-run hospitals in Ireland is something to be proud of. That ethos is often reduced to Catholic ethics with regard to what are now called reproductive issues. But Catholic ethos is much more than matters relating to bioethics.
It is founded on a life-long commitment to God by serving those in need, a practice that goes back to the origins of Christianity as inspired by Jesus Christ (Matthew 25:31-46).
The most evident manifestation of a true Catholic ethos and innovation is the hospice movement, founded in Harold’s Cross, Dublin, in 1879 by the Irish Religious Sisters of Charity and then spread throughout the world.
Pioneers in the care of the sick and suffering in Africa were, and are, the Medical Missionaries of Mary, who founded and run Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda. Little recognition is given to their selfless dedication to sick at home and abroad.
Thousands of Irish religious, mostly but not exclusively female, have given their entire lives to care for the sick and suffering. Their “influence . . . over the care of patients” does not deserve to be described, quoting Mr Tighe, as “vile and scandalous”.
Dare I remind Mr Tighe – and others who are allowed to rant on about “religious-run”, “taxpayer-funded hospitals” – that Irish Catholics are also taxpayers?
Rev Dr D Vincent Twomey, SVD
Professor Emeritus of Theology,
“There are serious challenges when it comes to things like tubal ligation, IVF services, abortion, gender reassignment surgery, etc. None of these are allowed in Catholic-controlled hospitals around the world and it’s a puzzle as to why the nuns, or religious Sisters of Charity would want to be involved.
“I mean I can’t imagine them being comfortable with a hospital which is effectively under their control doing these sorts of things in one of their hospitals.”
Dr Peter Boylan, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the National Maternity Hospital and Chairman of Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, speaking on Morning Ireland this morning about the ongoing national maternity hospital row.
St Vincent’s Healthcare Group is refusing to allow an application for planning permission go forward to An Bord Pleanala until the Holles Street board agrees to come under its corporate governance structure.
Meanwhile, in today’s Ireland edition of the The Times, Justine McCarthy writes:
What really upset St Vincent’s have been the legitimate concerns raised in the media about a hospital group that is owned by an order of Catholic nuns taking control of the state’s national maternity hospital.
Historically, the church’s grip on women’s wombs has produced some of the tawdriest and most tragic scandals of the Irish state.
Think of the mass graves in Dublin’s High Park laundry and Tuam’s mother and baby home. Think of the mothers who had their pelvises sundered during symphysiotomy and the dying Savita Halappanavar being told she could not have her doomed pregnancy terminated because “this is a Catholic country”.
The Religious Sisters of Charity ran three of the Magdalene laundries covered by the McAleese report, which catalogued the systemic indentured servitude of pregnant girls and women, and which led to Enda Kenny’s apology in the Dail.
The nuns have refused to contribute to the state’s compensation scheme for the women. Meanwhile, St Vincent’s group receives over €200 million a year from the exchequer.
From top: Editorial in yesterday’s Sunday Times, and Professor Chris Fitzpatrick, former master of the Coombe hospital
You may recall the plans to move the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street to a site next to St Vincent’s University Hospital so that they can share a campus in Elm Park, Dublin.
Yesterday the Sunday Times reported that the Religious Sisters of Charity-owned St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) is demanding that the National Maternity Hospital agrees to “become a branch of its corporate structure” before allowing the planned co-location to go ahead.
Further to this, Professor and consultant obstetrician/gynaecologist at the Coombe Hospital in Dublin Chris Fitzpatrick, spoke to Keelin Shanley on Today with Seán O’Rourke.
During their discussion, Professor Fitzpatrick said:
“I think that in terms of St Vincent’s Hospital, in the interests of patient safety that, in the context of co-location that the National Maternity Hospital should remain a clinical and corporate entity. Now there are huge advantages in relation to St Vincent’s Hospital taking on board the National Maternity Hospital, in terms of providing the full range of comprehensive care, from birth right through to old age. I think they are huge advantages in terms of the research, education and training synergies. But in the interest of patient safety, and with the greatest respect St Vincent’s Hospital do not have a track record in providing maternity and neonatal services, I think in the interest of patient safety that the National Maternity Hospital should be in a position to retain its corporate and clinical governance structures. In the interest of patient safety and I think that is the, that is to the forefront of all of these considerations.”
“…There’s been a long track record of underinvestment and de-prioritisation of services for mothers and babies. Moving into a big adult complex, healthcare complex, where there are competitive demands, I think it is really important that decisions made in relation to care being provided for mothers and babies are made by those who are best equipped to make those decisions…and these cases have been highlighted in the media recently.”
“There are also increasing ethical considerations that need to be taken into account in relation to complex issues in pregnancy. And I think, in the interest of mothers, that those decisions at a clinical and corporate level are best taken by those who have a long experience in making those decisions and providing those services… and that experience does not exist in general hospitals.”
“In relation to gynaecology services, where women are accessing gynaecology services in general hospitals, in Vincent’s, in James’s, in the Mater, because of competitive demands, many women are now actually moving from those hospitals into the maternity hospitals simply because of the fact that these services have been de-prioritised on the adult services.”
“…This project is ready to go to planning. I think the taxpayer and also mothers and women will not tolerate business issues bogging down a process that should be accelerated.”
Dr Rhona Mahony (above), Master of the National Maternity Hospital addressed the Join Committee On Health and Children’s hearing on the Expert Group report on the need for abortion legislation yesterday .
This is what she told them:
Dr Rhona Mahony: “ I’m very pleased to accept your invitation to attend today. I wish you every success in addressing what I think is a most important and most complex issue and I hope that I will be of some assistance. It’s my belief that we are all here today with the primary objective of preserving life.
“By way of introduction, I am the master of the National Maternity Hospital in Dublin, I’m a practising obstetrician and I’m also a specialist in foetal and maternal medicine. That means that I have cared for women whose pregnancies are complicated by either maternal or foetal disease.
The National Maternity Hospital is one of the busiest hospitals in Europe and it delivers over 9,000 babies annually, where one in eight babies in the state of Ireland. We are a tertiary referral centre which means we look after some of the most complicated pregnancies in Ireland. In addition to our own hospital population, we look after women referred to us from other obstetric units around the country. These women require additional expertise in dealing with the variety of complications that may arise, either de novo, or as a result of pre-existing maternal disease.
The primary reason for my presence today is to help you understand why it is that we, as doctors, need enhanced legal protection in dealing with clinical situations where a pregnant woman may die and where treatment to save her life may include termination of pregnancy.
I wish to make one thing very clear today. If there is any chance, any chance at all, that a baby will survive at the threshold of viability, every effort will be made to save that baby. That must not be an issue today. Regularly we look after babies at the threshold of viability with excellent results, by international standard. Our neo-natal intensive care is a national resource which cares for babies born as early as 23 weeks gestation and who weigh as little as 500g, even less in some cases.
At the moment in Ireland, doctors practice medicine in relation to pregnancy with a degree of legal uncertainty. It is as far back as 1861 that the Offences Against the Person Act, specifically sections 58 and 59 decreed that abortion in Ireland is a criminal offence, punishable by a life of penal servitude for both the woman and her doctor or anyone who assists her in procuring an abortion. This law remains today. It was to be over 130 years later, before the Supreme Court judged that termination of pregnancy was admissible in the very rare circumstance of a real and substantial risk to the life, as opposed to the health of a mother.
As we all know, the risk to life in this case was the risk of this young girl taking her own life because of her distress at being pregnant. Twenty years later, the anticipated legislation that might have come from this has not been enacted. And, therefore, there is a degree of legal uncertainty in how we interpret the Supreme Court judgement and whether or not the Offences Against the Person Act is, in fact, precedent, it remains law.
In the meantime, it’s quite interesting. We’ve passed a variety of referenda which allow women access to information on termination of pregnancy outside this jurisdiction. Women are allowed…We’ve had a referendum that allows women travel to alternative jurisdiction for termination of pregnancy, despite the fact that such a thing remains a criminal offence within this country.
We’ve twice held referenda to remove suicide ideation as an indication for termination of pregnancy but we have not yet managed, I believe, to address the legal uncertainty surrounding termination of pregnancy in the very narrow, narrow, rare context, where we believe there’s a genuine risk to the life of the woman, where a woman may die as a complication of her pregnancy, that could be saved by terminating her pregnancy.
So, in very rare circumstances, doctors are faced with the task of making highly complex, clinical decisions, based on medical probability but without the luxury of, without the luxury of medical certainty. It is imperative that we have flexibility to do so, to make decisions based on medical fact. It is imperative that we have legal protection to do this.
The State demands of us that we save lives wherever we can and we must do this. This is our job. If a woman is critically ill and it is very obvious that she is likely to die and she will be saved by intervening and treating her and that treatment involves interrupting or terminating the pregnancy, we will not hesitate to do so. And society, women may be absolutely reassured that we will not hesitate to do so.
The difficulty arises when the risk to life is not immediate. And, so for example, the woman who has a serious underlying medical disorder. She may be sitting in front of you now. But the additional burden of the physiology of pregnancy on organs that are already burdened and already challenged – may pose a very significant and substantial risk to her life. Doctors need to have the flexibility to make appropriate, clinical judgement, not based on ideology, not based on philosophy but based on medical circumstance. That is what the State demands of us.
And you know, we must acknowledge, very tragically, sometimes women die during pregnancy. In fact, about eight women out of every 100,000 maternities in Ireland die as a result, during pregnancy. Some of these cases, women may die either because of direct pregnancy complications or they may die from totally incidental causes like a road traffic accident, or they may die of indirect causes, for example they may have a serious underlying morbidity, the additional pregnancy may such challenge her, that she may die.
And, in fact, if we look back at maternal deaths, this country recently produced a report into maternal deaths in Ireland between the years 2009 and 2011. There was six deaths arising directly from pregnancy complications but, double that number, 13 deaths, arising in women who had pre-existing medical disease. Five of these women had pre-existing cardiovascular disease, two of these women died of suicide, two of these women died of flu and a variety of other medical causes, including liver disease and lung disease.
Interestingly, however, it is my experience that in many cases, women with serious, underlying medical disease will choose to continue their pregnancy in the knowledge that they may die. In other words, women will risk their own lives to reproduce. However, some women, faced with a significant risk of their own mortality will not wish to continue their pregnancy and this brings us to the very difficult issue of defining what is a substantial risk to life during pregnancy – a 10% risk? a 50% risk? an 80% risk? a 1% risk of dying?
The interpretation of risk is not the same for all people. And, you know, a woman herself will have a view as to what is an acceptable risk of her dying during pregnancy. Her opinion deserves to be afforded consideration. Clinical flexibility, supported by law is required. Doctors must be able to make sound, common sense, medical decisions based on medical conditions and medical circumstances, not ever on ideology or philosophy. But they must be protected in the law to do that if they are able to carry out their job to the best of their ability and what doctors want to do, and make no mistake, is to preserve life.
This is all about preserving life.
Over the last few months we’ve listened to a wide variety of opinion. Some of this opinion has been extreme and absolute, at times unhelpful and, I would argue, at times, even misleading. I believe this forum will hopefully provide an opportunity for informed and mature debate. I believe the outcome of your important work will underpin society’s wish to protect life as far as possible.
Perhaps the most controversial issue and I bring it up now is that issue of death during pregnancy as a result of suicide. Attempts have been made to confuse the risk of death from suicide by quoting figures relating to death from mental disorder, all mental disorders. Not, specifically, we’re talking here specifically about the very small and tiny number of women who present wishing to take their life during pregnancy.
Now, I’m not a psychiatrist and I absolutely appreciate that you will be addressed later by a specialist in the area of psychiatry and, of course, I defer to them. But could I just say, as a woman, that I’m offended by some of the perjorative and judgemental views that women will manipulate doctors in order to obtain termination of pregnancy, on the basis of fabricated ideas of suicide ideation or intent. There also seems to be an assumption that psychiatrists are unable to assess the issue of suicide ideation, something they do every day in their clinical practice.
“I don’t believe we have the right to absolutely dismiss the risk of a woman taking her life during pregnancy. Women will occasionally, we know, that women will occasionally, rarely, but they will occasionally take their own lives during pregnancy. Women who are so distressed that they will consider taking their own lives, they need to be listened to, they need to be believed and they need appropriate, medical care. That will not necessarily include termination of pregnancy but in a small, tiny percentage of cases, it just might.
Finally. Let’s remember the women and children who’ve brought us here today and yes, I use the word children. The X case. Let nobody in this room forget the circumstances of this case. This is the story of a 14-year-old child who was raped and who found herself pregnant and was so distressed by her circumstance that, at the age of 14, she wished to take her own life. Let nobody forget her because she’s real. Thank you.”