The nuns have moved ownership to their chosen vehicle to control St Vincent's Hospital and the new National Maternity Hospital. This is the first in a series of steps attempting to address a massive problem which the previous government simply denied existed.
Had the previous Govt had its way, the nuns would now own and control the National Maternity Hospital, while the state gifted it to them. It was only public, civic minded rejection of that plan that has improved it. But it's still got a key problem left.
The problem is, in a way, the most wicked problem of Irish healthcare. It is certainly the root problem of Irish healthcare's relationship with women and infants. I'll let Dr. Boylan, formerly Master of the NMH at Holles Street describe it;
Dr Boylan said "if legally permissible services at the new hospital are subject to a test of clinical appropriateness, women will lose both their autonomy and their unfettered right to access all legally permissible reproductive healthcare, including as I have noted, abortion"
The problem is that, as the price of getting something they needed for optics from the nuns, the Government has agreed to subjecting the provision of healthcare in the new National Maternity Hospital to a two step test.
1) Is it legally permissible
2) Does a Doctor agree it is clinically appropriate.
Women's rights to legally permissible treatments are now fettered.
The quid pro quo for this new limitation on access to medical services was that St Vincent’s Healthcare Group had “undertaken to amend their constitution to remove any reference to a religious ethos or purpose”, as a “priority”.
The Government couldn't try to move this scheme without addressing the obvious religiosity problem. They needed plausible deniability.
The Board of the HSE approved this new deal and asked the Cabinet to back it. But two board members, Prof Deirdre Madden and Dr Sarah McLoughlin, said they did not feel their outstanding concerns were adequately addressed and they dissented from the decision.
They “continued to have concerns regarding legal ownership of the site and building, and the governance and control” of the hospital. (Source)
St Vincent's Hospital, right now, have exactly the same policy the Government says that the new National Maternity Hospital will labour under. They say
"There is no prohibition on any medical procedure, whether elective or emergency, that is clinically indicated, including vasectomy or tubal ligation.”
There's that phrase again. It has to be 'clinically indicated'.
And yet, the effect of this policy is that consultant gynaecologists have to write out to people seeking tubal ligation and ask them not to look for the service in St Vincents as they are 'not performed' there.
The nuns may be gone, but it appears that the controls they placed on women's access to state funded healthcare are intended to outlast their involvement.
The Dept of Health and the then owners of St Vincents healthcare group and the management of the NMH in Holles Street all assured the public there was no risk of religious influence when the original plan become public.
That assertion was wrong then. We could see it was wrong.
We can see this too.