‘It Guarantees Division, It Guarantees Confusion’

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Professor Chris Fitzpatrick

You may recall how last April, Justine McCarthy, in The Sunday Times, reported that the Religious Sisters of Charity-owned St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG), at that time, was demanding that the new National Maternity Hospital agreed to “become a branch of its corporate structure” before allowing the planned co-location in Elm Park to go ahead.

On the same day, April 24, 2016, the newspaper published an editorial stating:

“The Religious Sisters of Charity must not be allowed to get away with their audacious attempt to take control of the State’s maternity services. The potential risks this power grab presents to the health of women and girls are too serious to allow for any complacency by the incoming government.”

The following day, Professor Chris Fitzpatrick, former master of the Coombe hospital, spoke to Keelin Shanley on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke.

During their discussion, Prof Fitzpatrick said:

“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.”

Further to this.

Yesterday Prof Fitzpatrick resigned from his position on the project board for the new National Maternity Hospital.

This morning, he spoke to Cormac Ó hEadhra, who was filling in for Seán O’Rourke, on RTÉ Radio one.

From their discussion.

Cormac Ó hEadhra: “As we heard earlier in the headlines, Dr Chris Fitzpatrick has resigned as a HSE representative on the project board for the new maternity hospital. The resignation comes just one day after the resignation of Dr Peter Boylan from the board of the National Maternity Hospital and I’m joined on the line now by Dr Chris Fitzpatrick. Dr Chris Fitzpatrick, you’re very welcome to the programme.”

Chris Fitzpatrick: “Good morning, Cormac.”

Ó hEadhra: “Now it’s been outlined in various headlines, but you tell me, in your own words, why you resigned.”

Fitzpatrick: “Well, firstly, I’d like just to clarify one point. I think, on this morning’s bulletin, it said I was appointed by the HSE to plan the hospital. My role is limited. I sit on the project board and I represent the clinical programme of obstetrics and gynaecology. So I bring a national, clinical perspective to the co-location but I don’t have overall responsibility for it. I just make a contribution. I would like to clarify that point. I suppose I was concerned and I have been concerned in relation to the ownership and the governance model as has emerged from the recent negotiations and I very much shared the viewpoint of Dr Peter Boylan and felt that I had no alternative other than to resign from my position on the project board. I’d like to emphasise that I registered my concern in relation to this almost a year ago to the day.”

Ó hEadhra: “To who?”

Fitzpatrick: “I spoke in a public forum in relation to it. I spoke to the media in relation to it and was encouraged by the National Maternity Hospital to address their concern in relation to the governance structures that were being discussed at the time with St Vincent’s Healthcare [Group].”

Ó hEadhra: “And your concerns then related to influence or ownership?”

Fitzpatrick: “It concerned ownership and control of the hospital. And, certainly, my viewpoint was, and I think that at the time, the National Maternity Hospital very much shared that viewpoint, is that they should have, in fact, control of their own hospital. That it should exist in a co-operative partnership with St Vincent’s hospital.”

Ó hEadhra: “But are you, do you not take on board, there were 24 members, I believe, at the National Maternity Hospital board meeting last, two or three nights ago, and they again discussed the whole thing following recent statements by Sister Agnes [Reynolds], Bishop [Kevin] Doran and the St Vincent’s Hospital Group [SVHG] and so on. And a huge majority of them, I think, voted to re-endorse the terms of agreement and so on. Are you not reassured by that?”

Fitzpatrick: “Unfortunately, I’m not reassured by it. And I suppose the other issue, and it’s important to emphasise, is that none of these deliberations, discussions, in relation to governance or ownership should, in any way, derail, decelerate the project. It’s absolutely essential that the National Maternity Hospital co-locates on St Vincent’s hospital, this is the ideal site for it. And these discussions should not be used as an excuse to slow down the process but I think..”

Ó hEadhra: “You think it should go ahead even though it’s fundamentally wrong?”

Fitzpatrick: “I think that there is an opportunity to resolve the issue and the relationship between both hospitals is more important than, it has a very, it has a national significance in that, this is the first maternity hospital to emerge out of the new Government strategy. This is the first maternity hospital being built in this century. So I think it is absolutely critical, in relation to maternity services, that there must be an absolute distinction or separation between church and medicine, particularly when it comes to female reproductive healthcare.”

Ó hEadhra: “But are you not reassured by Dr Rhona Mahony and Nicholas Kearns when they say it’s in the terms of agreement between the two hospitals, mediated by Kieran Mulvey. It’s in black and white, Rhona Mahony said. We will have autonomy and independence.”

Fitzpatrick: “Well, I’ve been a consultant for over 20 years and I was a Master of a Dublin maternity hospital for seven years and I would have found it very difficult to operate in a clinical, with clinical independence under a board that was constituted as the proposed board would be constituted.”

Ó hEadhra: “Why?”

Fitzpatrick: “Because it is constituted, it, the membership of the board has [inaudible]. There are nine members of the board, four appointed by St Vincent’s Hospital, four by the National Maternity Hospital and an independent chair. I believe that’s not the way to appoint a board. It’s also the board that, in fact, the ownership of the hospital is with St Vincent’s Healthcare Group. Now, I would think there’s sufficient ambiguity. There’s sufficient division on that board to in fact cause concern. It is a compromise deal. And..”

Ó hEadhra: “Doesn’t it, Dr Fitzpatrick, doesn’t it have to be? Because it’s a compromise between two hospitals? The new hospital is going to be on lands owned by the St Vincent’s hospital.”

Fitzpatrick: “I think, to the casual bystander, to have a maternity hospital in 21s century Ireland, owned by a religious organisation, who have a very  significant, controlling influence on the board, where they will have in fact four representatives out of nine. And also in terms of how the chair is elected, they’ll have significant influence in relation to that and, to hear references to triple lock systems and reserved powers and golden shares being held by a minister and adjudication between board, in relation to grievances, this is not the way to run a hospital.”

Ó hEadhra: “Does that not all guarantee the independence, the autonomy?”

Fitzpatrick:I think it guarantees division, I think it guarantees confusion and having been a master in a hospital, having had to report to a board, the type of board you’d need to report to, the unified board, where board members are there because of their competencies, because of the expertise they bring to the table, because of their commitment, because of their shared view, because of the additional expertise they have. They’re not there to represent St Vincent’s hospital, they’re not there for represent the National Maternity Hospital, they’re there to represent the patients.”

Listen back in full here

National Maternity Hospital relocation planner resigns (Irish Times)

Previously: ‘In The Interest Of Patient Safety’

How Deal leaves Doors Open For Church Control

22 thoughts on “‘It Guarantees Division, It Guarantees Confusion’

  1. Milo

    the good doctors who resigned are doing a magnificent job of adding to the division and the confusion. Speculation such as theirs is unhelpful when it’s only speculation. The media have payed a predictable role in the framing of this too. They don’t know what to do with rhona who could do no wrong til now.

    1. Salmon of Nollaig

      The media personalises things too much.

      Rhona good Boylan bad
      Boylan good Rhona bad
      and they’re both relatives! what are we in, a monarchy!

      Really it is essential that we start separating our view of whether something is right or wrong from the question of whether we like the people endorsing it. We need to start thinking for ourselves. Unfortunately the media doesn’t encourage this (understandably, because if we started thinking for ourselves there’d be no need for crappy articles like last week’s “My intuition tells me to trust Rhona Mahony”

      And we also need to accept that once women are in powerful positions – as is now happening, only justtly – that they must be subject to question and criticism in the same way as men in that position and should not be fawned over simply because they are women. A lot of the media treatment of Dr Mahony well prior to this incident has been on this basis.

      1. Daisy Chainsaw

        And control. If there’s two things the catholic church loves, it’s control and money.

        1. realPolithicks

          Exactly, control is what these cults are always interested in. They want to control your body and your mind, then they’ll take your money.

          1. MoyestWithExcitement

            But we must acquiesce to them and accept their help. We need them. We must bow. That’s the right wi…I mean Realistic and Pragmatic option.

          2. Daisy Chainsaw

            Yeah, cheer up and hope you don’t end up relying on slavers and traffickers loyal to the Vatican to make decisions in your best interests over theirs.

  2. Owen C

    Fitzpatrick: “…And I suppose the other issue, and it’s important to emphasise, is that none of these deliberations, discussions, in relation to governance or ownership should, in any way, derail, decelerate the project. It’s absolutely essential that the National Maternity Hospital co-locates on St Vincent’s hospital, this is the ideal site for it. And these discussions should not be used as an excuse to slow down the process but I think..”

    Not sure how this is supposed to work as a negotiating tactic (which again comes back to “what alternative are you suggesting”. This is basically an admission that there is no alternative even from people against the plan-as-stands. Unless there’s a willingness to scrap the whole proposal, all SVHG have to do is hold their line. RCC has never been particularly worried about PR.

  3. Salmon of Nollaig

    Still better than a situation where this simply goes through without objection. Forcing St Vincent’s to obviously ‘hold their line’ is not without value – at the very least it brings the Church’s attitude out into the open so that something like this will not happen next time.

    One strategy used by people who support continued Church control is to say ‘ah sure there’s no point in objecting’.

    There is always point in objecting.

    On a separate note, resignation as a form of objection can often be counter-productive because another strategy used in popular manipulation (not just by the Church but by manipulation-smart individuals and interest groups) is to push resignations by people who disagree with them. Once people resign they are a footnote in history. If they stay on a board in opposition, it may not be very comfortable for them, but nor is it comfortable for the board and they retain voting power. And if the board sacks them, it’s the best way of bringing their objection out in the open.

    Speaking out and calling bluff in relation to sacking is the way to go.

  4. newsjustin

    Dr Fitzpatrick: “This is the first maternity hospital being built in this century. ”

    Except for Cork University Maternity Hospital built in 2007.

  5. Sheik Yahbouti

    “BTW may I congratulate Mr Fitzpatrick for weighing in on the side of right in the NMH ‘controversy ‘. We need more like him. The faux Republic supports slavers and human traffickers. I’m so proud.” is what I posted on another thread and I am not wrong. I am as opposed to the handover of a multi-hundred million state asset to this Organisation as I am to the handing over of valuable buildings and estates to Vulture funds. At least the Vulture funds pay something, even if it’s only ten cents on the dollar (shame). This order propose to get this Hospital for nowt. All this is quite apart from the thorny issue of the ethical treatment of women. When are we going to wake up?

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