Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Ireland's Church Hospitals

Hospital and disability services used by hundreds of thousands of Irish people every year, paid for by the State and by private health insurance, are owned by religious congregations motivated by their Catholic faith. An examination by The Irish Times of the four largest providers of such services shows that they all have rules that require that their assets are transferred to other charitable bodies with a Catholic ethos in the event that the congregations decide to wind up the companies that run these services.

The Catholic Church is the largest non-governmental provider of health services in the world and the question of what to do with the institutions owned by its religious congregations in the light of ageing and depleted memberships is a global one. In the US, the number of Catholic-ethos hospitals has increased significantly in recent years.

The Sisters of Bon Secours order owns hospitals in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Tralee, as well as the Care Village in Cork. Bon Secours Health System Ltd had a turnover of €230 million in 2015, the latest year for which accounts are filed. The company had a value of €132 million and employed 2,700 people who worked with more than 350 consultants to provide care to more than 200,000 patients, the accounts show. The group relies hugely on private health insurance income. The hospitals paid €3.99 million to the congregation in 2015 for buildings leased from it and on interest on loans, according to the accounts. Tthere were 112 elderly sisters in Ireland in 2015.
The Religious Sisters of Mercy is not just the largest order of nuns in Ireland but also one of the biggest players in the hospital sector. Thehad 1,869 members in Ireland in 2015, again mostly elderly with the average age being 74, with three quarters of the sisters over 65. The order owns the Mater Misericordiae and Children’s University Hospitals Ltd (MMCUH) which is the owner of the Mater public hospital, the Temple Street Children’s Hospital and the Cappagh National Orthopaedic Hospital, all in Dublin. The company owned land and buildings with a value of €637 million at the end of 2015. The order also owns and operates the Mercy University Hospital Cork. The bulk of the group’s income comes from the State.
The Religious Sisters of Charity operate the St Vincent’s hospital complex in Dublin 4, and St Michael’s Hospital, in DĂșn Laoghaire, Co Dublin. The sisters own St Vincent’s Healthcare Group (SVHG) which operates St Vincent’s University Hospital and St Vincent’s Private Hospital, as well as St Michael’s. The proposed movement of the National Maternity Hospital from Holles Street to the St Vincent’s campus has created controversy. Under the current plan the €300 million hospital, to be funded by the State, would be independent but owned by SVHG. The group had an income of more than €400 million in 2015, with more than half of that coming from the HSE, and ended the year with a deficit of €7.7 million. It had a net value of approximately €110 million and employed more than 3,700 people. During the year the hospital group paid the congregation €1.2 million in rent and €1.1 million for the purchase of a leasehold.The order had 213 members, with an average age of 76, in 2015. 
The Congregation of Brothers of Charity in Ireland (BCSI) is the largest provider of services to people in Ireland with intellectual disabilities. The order has outlets in Clare, Galway, Roscommon, Limerick, Cork, Kerry, Waterford and Tipperary. The provision of the services by the group to thousands of adults and children is funded by the HSE. The residential, respite, day, home-based and multi-disciplinary supports involved 2,854 employees. According to the 2009 audit conducted as part of the Redress Scheme, the congregation had property worth €170 million. In 2015, there were a total of 12 brothers in the region. The average age was in the mid-70s and three required sustained care. A further three brothers lived under supervision in another jurisdiction because of child abuse allegations made against them in Ireland.

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