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Social Democrats Welcome NMH Decision but Urge Caution

The Social Democrats have welcomed the announcement that the Sisters of Charity have relinquished control of the St. Vincent’s Healthcare Group but have warned that there are still questions that must be answered before agreement can be given for the relocation of the National Maternity Hospital to the St. Vincent’s site. Chief among those questions according to Róisín Shortall TD is why the entire project has not been handed over to the State and instead has been transferred into a new charitable organisation – St. Vincents.

Róisín Shortall TD said:

“It is good that the wide-spread public outcry in relation to the NMH decision has been heard and heard loudly. It is encouraging for people to see that public sentiment is hugely important and can change policy direction. However the Social Democrats still have concerns about the arrangements that will be put in place for the transfer of control of the healthcare group. Instead of the State taking responsibility for a publicly funded hospital, ownership will transfer to a charitable organisation.  This effectively means that the State will hand over €300 million to a private organisation and relinquish control of governance, including clinical governance to that organisation.”

“We want to be clear that it would be preferable for the State to be in charge of running the new National Maternity Hospital and in lieu of that we feel that stringent criteria will have to be placed on the new charitable organisation including detailed scrutiny of the composition of the future board. It will be vital to ensure the charitable organisation is held to stringent governance arrangements in a way that people can feel the project is above reproach and wholly independent. People are becoming more and more aware of how their taxes are being spent and they will not allow €300 million of those taxes to be pumped into a private organisation without serious questions being asked.”

“This issue also raises questions about the unorthodox corporate arrangements at SVHG where there is a lack of clarity and transparency about the elements of service which are publicly funded and the commercial elements which are for-profit. It is not appropriate that these corporate governance arrangements should continue as it lacks transparency. The Social Democrats call on the Minister for Health to urgently review this aspect of SVHG in order to ensure greater accountability for public money.”