Green Party Minister Catherine Minister has backed the planned relocation of the National Maternity Hospital (NMH) for the first time.
In a statement this afternoon, Ms Martin said she had received reassurances from Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly, the NMH, the HSE and St Vincent’s Healthcare Group regarding care at the new hospital.
Her support for the move paves the way for full Cabinet approval next week.
"I am satisfied that following assurances received, including written assurances I received containing required additional clarifications, including from the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group, that this has resulted in greater transparency around this project," Ms Martin said.
"I now believe that the safeguards and protections are there to protect services for women."
In a letter sent to Ms Martin by St Vincent’s Hospital, the chair James Menton confirmed in writing that the following procedures will be available in the new NMH: “Termination of pregnancy, voluntarily sterilisation (tubal ligation), gender affirming care, fertility and assisted human reproduction 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.
Controversy about the ownership and governance structure of the hospital has continued for almost two weeks now, since the Minister for Health’s memo to Cabinet was stalled to allow for further scrutiny of the arrangement.
Taoiseach Micheál Martin today said that the phrase “legally permissible” is “very clear” that any procedure that is legal in Ireland has to be provided at the new hospital.
Speaking to reporters in Sallins, Co Kildare, at the opening of 29 new homes, he defended the agreement as sufficiently clear to guarantee that all procedures would take place at the hospital.
“‘Lawfully permissible’ is very clear – anything that’s legal in this country has to be provided at the new hospital, and is currently provided at Holles Street,” he said.
“The guarantees are cast iron in respect of all legally permissible services being made available at the hospital. The constitution of the new hospital is very strong in terms of all services being made available. Also, the operating licence of the HSE (provides further assurances).
“Above all, the clinicians in the hospital I listen to a lot. Many women involved in maternity, obstetrics and midwifery are unanimous that this hospital must go ahead in the interest of the health of the women in the country.”
The memo to approve the co-location of the National Maternity Hospital to St Vincent’s Elm Park campus is to come before Cabinet again next week.
The hospital is currently in a 130-year-old building at Holles Street in Dublin city centre, which has been criticised as unfit for purpose.
The main calls from campaigners and opposition TDs at present are to clarify the phrase “clinically appropriate” and to push for outright ownership of the land that the hospital is to be built on.
Earlier, master of the National Maternity Hospital Shane Higgins told a press briefing that he would support changes to legal documents around the relocation of the hospital amid concerns about the contentious phrase about clinical appropriateness.
Government sources have confirmed to The Irish Times that work is under way on a legal codicil which would clarify a statement in the documents that says procedures will be available in the hospital where “clinically appropriate and legally permissible”.