The Editor’s Corner

To the proverbial visitor from Mars it might come as something of a shock as to why we in Ireland cannot establish a health service fit for purpose. Indeed that question has been puzzling many of us who live here for a long time too. While most European countries have got this issue sorted years ago, here we’re still struggling with the basics. Even the physical location where we put our hospitals gets us in a knot.

While the site for the national children’s hospital was eventually settled at St James’s, the latest €2bn projected cost will likely make it the most expensive hospital on this or any other planet. And then there’s the national maternity hospital (NMH). With no room for expansion at the current Holles Street location there is no denying the need for a new one, and the Elm Park site co-located with St Vincent’s, makes perfect sense at first glance. If only there wasn’t that sticky little question of who exactly will own it.

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly T.D. told an Oireachtas Health Committee that “consistent” requests by the current and previous government to purchase the site had been turned down. Instead the former owners, the Sisters of Charity “gifted” the site to the not-for-profit group, St Vincent’s Holdings CLG. Why not to the State? Only they can answer that and they’re remaining stumm. However, that point remains largely irrelevant because under a Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) the government could acquire the land, ensuring the hospital was 100% owned and operated by the State. They’ve instead chosen another option, the 299 year lease, which they want us to believe at €10 a year is as good as ownership. But the term ‘clinically appropriate’ regarding procedures in the hospital’s constitution has already raised a few red flags. Could such medical procedures as fatal fetal abnormalities and tubal ligation be under threat if the hospital was still required to operate under a Catholic ethos?

It should also be remembered that any infringement of the terms by the State could see that €10 inflate to a dizzying €850,000 per annum. But cost aside, there can be no ambiguity around this, women’s reproductive health care must be protected and made safe above all else. And with resignations from Sláintecare, and the cracks that Covid revealed especially around underfunding beginning to show, we need to seriously fix a service that is already on life support before it becomes defunct.

On a lighter note, we’re excited after a two-year hiatus to welcome Bloomsday (pgs. 4, 32-33) back again. I think everyone should make a special effort, it being the centenary of the publication of Ulysses, to don period attire. Two other centenaries are occurring as well; this year sees the Gardaí celebrating one hundred years of excellent service to the people of Ireland (pgs. 30-31); just look and see how the uniforms have changed over the years! And that centre of excellence that is O’Reilly’s pub in Sandymount village is also marking 100 years (pgs. 24-25) promising lots of fun and excitement in the locality. Elsewhere we take a cheeky look at the mullet (pgs.34-35). Be honest, who hasn’t donned one at some time? Enjoy the festivities.