Senior figures in the National Maternity Hospital are exploring a range of possible sites for its relocation as the row over a move to the campus of St Vincent's Hospital deepened.
The executives in the hospital, which is currently located in an outdated building in Holles Street, are now spreading the net to examine other sites where it can construct a modern premises.
However, it is understood that the Department of Health remains of the view that building a new maternity hospital on the grounds of St Vincent's is still the best option.
It is ultimately a matter for the department to decide where the €150m of exchequer funding set aside in the capital plan will be used to construct the new hospital.
A decision on whether to abandon the plan to move to St Vincent's and review other locations will be one of the first items on the agenda of the next Minister for Health.
St Vincent's Healthcare Group is adamant it must have control of the corporate governance of the new maternity facility, but this is being resisted by the maternity hospital board.
The St Vincent's board is embroiled in the row over corporate governance at a time when its public hospital emergency department is facing dangerous levels of overcrowding and has recently had to close its doors to new patients with skin cancer.
Health Minister Leo Varadkar reiterated yesterday that his preference is for the maternity hospital to retain its independence as part of a co-location structure.
"Clinical care at Vincent's has clearly benefited from having its own independent board, and there is every reason that the same independence should be retained at the maternity hospital," he said.
Dr Peter Boylan, chair of the Institute of Obstetricians, warned yesterday that any more delays will leave pregnant women at a disadvantage as they give birth in out-of-date and cramped conditions.
"The outcomes are good, but they could be an awful lot better," Dr Boylan said.
"There is a need for a modern maternity hospital to be co-located with an acute hospital, where seriously ill women have access to intensive care and interventional radiology which provides the least invasive way of diagnosing and treating disease."
He added integration with an acute hospital would not work, insisting separate governance and budgets are needed.
"Even if the maternity hospital was to be represented on an all-embracing board, it would be down the priority list," he added.
"The three maternity hospitals in Dublin are overcrowded and they need to be relocated. It is time to get on with it."
A spokesman for the national maternity hospital said: "We are committed to seeking a resolution of the current impasse and developing a world-class hospital for women and infants at the St Vincent's site.
"We don't want to speculate on other options at this stage."