30 May 2017, The Tablet

Sisters of Charity end 183-year involvement with healthcare group in 'historic' move, following protests

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris said the announcement of the change of ownership was a “very significant development for the healthcare sector”

The Religious Sisters of Charity have announced they will end their involvement in three hospitals in Dublin: St Vincent’s University Hospital, St Vincent’s Private and St Michael’s, in a move that was described as “historic” by Ireland’s Health minister.

The decision by the Sisters of Charity to relinquish control of the healthcare group after 183 years follows controversy over the proposed ownership of the planned new National Maternity Hospital on the St Vincent’s campus. Major concerns emerged in April that the new €300m taxpayer-funded maternity facility would be subject to a Catholic ethos due to the order’s ownership of the facility and the land on which it is to be built.

This led to the resignation of two board members of the National Maternity Hospital and a public petition gathered over 105,000 signatures against the Sisters’ involvement.

In a surprise move on Monday (29 May), the Religious Sisters of Charity announced they would relinquish their involvement in St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) - one of the most important health providers in the city - and would not be involved in the ownership or management of the new National Maternity Hospital.

Congregational Leader, Sr Mary Christian, said in a statement that for the last two years the order has been working to find the best way to let go of its shareholding of the St Vincent’s Healthcare Group which encompasses the three hospitals.

St Vincent’s Hospital was founded by the Venerable Mary Aikenhead in 1834. The new company will be called St Vincent’s and will have charitable status. The Religious Sisters of Charity will have no involvement in it and their shares will be transferred for a ‘nominal consideration.”

The Minister for Health, Simon Harris said the announcement of the change of ownership was a “very significant development for the healthcare sector.” The hospital group will now comply with national and international best practice guidelines on medical ethics and the laws of the Republic of Ireland, he explained.

Mr Harris added it “directly addresses concerns regarding the question of religious influence in the new National Maternity Hospital and further illustrates the constructive role of the Sisters to facilitate this landmark project”.

Dr Peter Boylan, a former master of the National Maternity Hospital, who resigned from the board over concerns about a possible Catholic ethos, described the decision by the nuns as “the noble and correct thing to do”. 

PICTURE: People protesting outside the Department of Health in Dublin in April at plans to grant ownership of the new National Maternity Hospital to the Sisters of Charity religious order

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