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NMH must keep its governance structure as part of SVUH move

10 May 2016

Pic: Getty Images

Dear Editor,
I write in my capacity as Chairman of the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists.

We are deeply concerned by the news that St Vincent’s Healthcare Group is refusing to allow submission of the planning application for the new National Maternity Hospital to be co-located on the St Vincent’s University Hospital site at Elm Park, unless the National Maternity Hospital dissolves its corporate structure and becomes a subdivision of St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, reporting to its board.

This approach runs completely counter to government policy as detailed in the National Maternity Strategy, launched in January, which specifically endorses the clinical and corporate governance structures of the three Dublin maternity services in the interests of patient safety and the effective delivery of clinical services. The National Maternity Strategy supersedes previous recommendations, including those of the 2008 KPMG Report into maternity services in the greater Dublin area.

The National Maternity Strategy was developed in response to adverse incidents in maternity services in recent years that sadly occurred in units in Galway, Portlaoise, Sligo, Cavan, Drogheda and Portiuncula. In all of these cases, the governance of maternity services came under that of the general hospital. In 2015, maternity services at Portlaoise were brought under the governance of the Coombe Women and Infants Hospital to address well documented patient safety concerns.

As we have seen with Cork University Maternity Hospital, integration can result in the cutting of maternity, neonatal and gynaecology budgets to the detriment of patient services.

The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists also has concerns about the implications of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group proposed governance structure for the provision of women’s reproductive healthcare, given the control of the group by the Religious Sisters of Charity.

Catholic-controlled hospitals around the world forbid the provision of modern contraceptive services, IVF, sterilisation operations, and gender-reassignment surgery. We also have concerns in this respect about the implementation of the Protection of Life in Pregnancy Act.

The Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, therefore, fully endorses the National Maternity Strategy, including the co-location of the National Maternity Hospital and St Vincent’s Healthcare Group on the same site, but not under the governance structure proposed by St Vincent’s.

There is great opportunity for both St Vincent’s and the National Maternity Hospital to benefit from co-location in terms of business efficiencies without having to compromise patient safety and clinical best practice.

Irish women and infants deserve modern, safe and effective obstetric and gynaecological services. Plans for the new National Maternity Hospital are well advanced, and the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists urges the board of St Vincent’s to reconsider its position and move forward with the planning application so that this project, planned since 1998, can be realised without further delay.

Finally, the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists urges the Minister, the Department of Health, and the HSE to ensure that the National Maternity Strategy is not holed below the waterline before it has a chance to get under way.

Dr Peter Boylan,
Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists,
South Frederick Street,
Dublin 2.


Click here to view the full article which appeared in Irish Medical Times: Opinion