Humphreys says she will now support the National Maternity Hospital plan

The prospect of Cabinet approving the new National Maternity Hospital received a major boost on Saturday when one of the ministers who raised concerns about the project said she now supports the plan.

Social Welfare Minister Heather Humphreys was one of many Fine Gael and Greens ministers to raise concerns about the extent of the new hospital’s independence from religious influence during a Cabinet meeting last Wednesday.

Their intervention resulted in a two-week delay to review a number of documents before Cabinet made a final decision on the plan.

A second minister who has raised concerns with Cabinet about the plans said on Wednesday she was open to approving the proposal once the matter had been considered by TDs and senators.

The new NMH will be located on the grounds of St Vincent’s Hospital in Donnybrook, which was once run by the religious order of the Sisters of Charity. Taoiseach Micheál Martin and Health Minister Stephen Donnelly have both insisted the new hospital will have no religious influence.

Speaking on Saturday, Ms Humphreys said her concerns had been allayed and she would support the project.

She was speaking to reporters at a Fine Gael conference in Tullamore where Tánaiste Leo Varadkar also strongly supported the launch of the NMH at that site.

He said any other options at this stage were “uncertain” and would take many years to cross the line.

Ms Humphreys said: “Collectively, we made the decision in Cabinet last week to give two weeks so that we could have this debate and who could appear before the Oireachtas joint committee.

She said the current NMH location at Holles Street was past its sell-by date and it was important to “get this moving forward now as quickly as possible”.

The Tánaiste said he was very favorable to the project.

“The prize really here is a hospital where every woman has a private room with a bathroom and gets the dignity she deserves.

“The really important infection control issues are being addressed. There will be five theaters. Think of the difference it will make in terms of gynecology, waiting lists, neonatal intensive care.

He said it would be a hospital where patients could be moved from one end to the other in ten minutes, and that a large adult hospital was next door for emergency procedures in all disciplines.

“That’s the price and it can be done in the next few years on the same site.

“Everything else is very uncertain. If we were to choose a standalone site somewhere else, it would definitely take years, we wouldn’t get a roommate, we wouldn’t get the best results for women and children. It would definitely cost more dear

“…So what we have here is an opportunity, which is very, very good. And then there are alternatives that may not be deliverable. And that’s a choice we have to make,” he said.

Ms Humphreys said it was important for the hospital to move forward. She said the week gave everyone a chance to discuss the issues that were causing concern.

“There are many who are worried and we have been able to allay those fears and when you hear Dr Rhona Mahoney and Professor Shane Higgins come out and they talk about why it is so important that this continues. I think we should listen to them because they are the doctors at the end of the day.

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