Dublin, Ireland — Contention over the relocation of Ireland's new national maternity hospital to a site owned by the Religious Sisters of Charity in Dublin has raised questions about the clinical independence of the new facility and thrust the congregation into the public spotlight, rekindling attention to past controversies.
Protests have taken place in the Irish capital, and almost 105,000 people have signed a petition in opposition to the sisters' involvement in the new National Maternity Hospital.
Two board members of the maternity hospital resigned on April 27 and 28, claiming that the new 300-million-euro, taxpayer-funded hospital, which is to be built on the campus of St. Vincent's Hospital, would be subject to Catholic values because of the Religious Sisters of Charity's ownership of the land and, by extension, the new facility. The nation's health minister has said he is seeking a solution to be announced in the next few weeks to help clarify ownership issues.
Venerable Mary Aikenhead, foundress of the Religious Sisters of Charity, founded St. Vincent's Hospital in 1834. It was the first hospital in the English-speaking world staffed by nuns and has a long history of medical excellence. The sisters still own the hospital and its land, but the government funds day-to-day operations.
Over 9,000 infants are born at the National Maternity Hospital every year. However, cramped facilities mean the city center building, which dates from 1894, is no longer fit for its purpose. Its location has prevented any expansion, despite a 50 percent increase in the number of births there over the last two decades.
Moving to the same campus as St. Vincent's Hospital, one of the country's largest public hospitals, would allow the maternity hospital to operate in proximity to an adult tertiary hospital and provide immediate medical care to women whose pregnancies are complicated by other health issues.