National Maternity Hospital‘To suggest the hospital will be run under Catholic ethos, this is not true.’

As heard on Today with Sean O'Rourke

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Two flagship RTÉ Radio shows. Two of the leading practitioners in maternity care in Ireland. Two extraordinarily divergent opinions surrounding the ownership and governance of the new National Maternity Hospital.

That was the picture that emerged over the course of this morning in a story that will, no doubt, run and run over the coming days.

The scale of the gulf between Dr Peter Boylan, consultant obstetrician, gynaecologist and former Master of the National Maternity Hospital, Holles Street, and the current National Maternity Hospital Master, Dr Rhona Mahony, first became evident during an interview with Dr Boylan on today’s Morning Ireland.

During the interview, Dr Boylan, who is also Chairman of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, suggested that the Sisters of Charity will bring a strong religious influence to the practices at the new National Maternity Hospital, which will be built by the State at a cost of €300 million, but will be owned by the religious order.

‘The state is investing €300 million of your money and my money in a new maternity hospital and it is inappropriate that that hospital should have a strong religious influence, particularly from the Catholic Church, with all its bad history in relation to women’s healthcare.’

On Today with Sean O’Rourke, some of Dr Peter Boylan’s comments from his Morning Ireland interview were played for listeners, including the above words.

But Dr Rhona Mahony, sitting opposite Sean and alongside Nicholas Kearns, the Chair of the National Maternity Hospital, hit back strongly.

‘First of all, I’m really surprised that the Chairman of the Institute of Obstetrics and Gynaecology would be so misleading on radio this morning to suggest that the nuns would be running the hospital. This is not true. To suggest the hospital will be run under Catholic ethos, this is not true.’

When queried by the presenter as to whether practices contrary to Catholic teaching would be allowed in the new hospital, Rhona Mahony had this to say.

‘We will continue to practice contraception, we will continue to terminate pregnancy in order to save women’s lives, we will continue to deliver excellence in health care. And the ethos of the new National Maternity Hospital will be excellence in clinical care. It will not be any religious ethos.’

Today’s interview is worth reviewing in full, if you missed it, as presenter, Sean O’Rourke, pursued both his guests on a variety of questions. Included in those were the issue of whether the board of the National Maternity Hospital were backed into a corner by Health Minister, Simon Harris, over the issue. And the question, as initially raised by Dr Peter Boylan, as to why a religious order would feel it necessary to maintain ownership over a hospital where they had no influence over Government.

And the critical question as to whether, if there were changes to abortion laws in the future, the Sisters of Charity would stay silent on changing practices that might accommodate those changing laws.

Responding, Dr Rhona Mahony elaborated on a “triple lock” mechanism to ensure the independence of the hospital, its management and clinicians.

One feels this issue is not going away soon. But if you want a good grounding in the key questions which have been raised, do take the opportunity to listen to today’s interview in full. You can do that by clicking here.

© The Listener 2017

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