24 May 2023

Calvary Health Care at 'impasse' with government as protesters lament 'diabolical' hospital takeover

| Claire Fenwicke
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Religious representatives are concerned this is ‘just the start’ of removing religion from institutions. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Protesters gathered outside the Legislative Assembly today (24 May) to voice their opposition to the government’s takeover of Calvary Public Hospital as negotiations over the proposed compulsory acquisition continue.

Calvary Health Care has been seeking legal advice following the announcement, which it said was out of the blue.

Nothing can happen until the Health Infrastructure Enabling Bill 2023 passes the next Legislative Assembly sitting period. However, usual processes have been bypassed so the legislation can be debated and potentially passed before a scrutiny committee can return its report.

Despite this, a Northside Hospital Transition Team has been established to prepare for the acquisition process, which the government wants completed by 3 July.

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Calvary Health Care issued a statement on Wednesday (24 May) stating it wanted to pursue “genuine negotiations” with the government, but thus far felt there hadn’t been any “meaningful options” for a resolution, including around retained service delivery or compensation.

“We remain hopeful the ACT Government will give this matter appropriate consideration and provide options beyond the legislation. Our people deserve this,” Calvary’s National Chief Executive Martin Bowles said.

“This legislation could be enacted as early as next Wednesday, and yet we seem to be at an impasse with the ACT Government choosing to double down on its proposed legislation filled with draconian measures.

“Calvary has 76 years left on our contract, which is part of our long-term business planning and the ACT Government cannot simply take that away from our overall business without impacting our services more broadly.”

Town halls have also been held between Calvary senior doctors and the Australian Medical Association’s ACT Branch, with some expressing their “shock, dismay and anger” over the process.

AMA ACT president Dr Walter Abhayaratna has previously said there was a general feeling among senior medical staff that they had been “disrespected” during the process.

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There’s also been an outcry from religious communities, with the Australian Christian Lobby protesting outside the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, urging the ACT Government to reconsider the acquisition.

CEO Wendy Francis labelled the takeover as a “diabolical act” and urged Calvary to bring an injunction against the legislation the government introduced to make this possible.

“It’s a Soviet-style takeover. They’ve just come in and not had any consultation with the hospital, no consultation with the stakeholders, and the day after the day they announced the takeover, they introduced legislation into the Parliament to allow them to do this,” she said.

“We hope that the government will revise its decision to take over Calvary Hospital and that it will listen to the people of Canberra.”


Australian Christian Lobby protesters gathered outside the ACT’s Legislative Assembly to oppose the compulsory acquisition of Calvary Public Hospital. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Protesters argued religious institutions had provided services such as healthcare and education for decades and were concerned this was “just the start”.

“Freedom of conscience, freedom of religion, freedom of speech, all of these are at stake if the government can come in and just compulsorily take over an institution like the Calvary Hospital,” Ms Francis said.

“Religious institutions obviously need protection.”

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Peter Herman1:02 pm 28 May 23

Reply to @justsaying
Suggest that young’s and look at the homeless people in Canberra
I do know of at least multi story laces that are empty becuase ACT govt won’t put a lift into the units, but they can see fit to take over a hospital that is doing well without them
There are so many projects that this govt have no ideas what they are doing, but Shan that is the coalition for you by the way what sort of rebate are we erring for increasing power bills…all of!$150 when other states and territories are receiving upto $600
So yes the ACT govt are got their priorities up their noses

@Peter Herman
Wow … OK

Peter Herman6:41 pm 26 May 23

Why should ACT govt take over Calgary Hospital, when there are still many people that don’t even have a roof over their heads
As usual ACT govt have got their priorities up the creek

@Peter Herman
Ummm, Peter, the ACT government has, and continues to, direct substantial funds towards the Calvary Hospital, to provide health services on its (ACT govt) behalf to northside citizens.

The takeover , rightly or wrongly, is just an extension of the provision of those health services. Or don’t you think funding of health services is a good priority?

Peter Herman1:14 pm 27 May 23

I don’t agree with ACT Govt taking over Calvary
They have stuffed up Canberra Hospital in a big way
Why do you think that many staff left law last year
I was a patient I 2017 for 10 months, many of the staff were great, but why stuff ups Calvary like you have stuffed up Canberra hospital
There are so many things wrong with Canberra Hospital so do you wish to see Calvary go the same way

@Peter Herman
I was addressing your comment about priorities … now you are suggesting the takeover is wrong because you had an issue … that’s hardly related to priorities

It has nothing to do with religion. If that were the case then thoughts and prayers would suffice and health care be made redundant. It’s about prestige, power and money. Mostly money. The ACT Govt. tried to negotiate but were put on hold by a Vatican that wanted to keep it’s milk cow. Built with ACT Govt. money on ACT Govt. donated land with improvements paid for by the ACT Govt. and all the Catholic Church did was let it run down while milking tax free profits to build their own private hospital. Given that the ultimate reward for following these religions is a heavenly payout after death I fail to see why they want to prolong this Earthly toil.

ACT Government behaving like an Autocratic Communist Government. Chairmen Barr, Rattenbury & Chairperson Stephen-Smith.

The sooner Calvary becomes part of the public health system, the better off the community will be.

Why do all those protesting about the lack of negotiations fail to acknowledge that previous attempts to negotiate have fallen over because of lack of engagement by the church and because the final decision needs to be made thousands of KMs away by men who have no interest in Canberra apart from an interest in imposing their rigid ideology?

Labor own this town. They do what they like

The Catholic church and the Vatican own Calvary. All of their assets are publicly funded. These publicly funded assets are now owned by them!
The church and the Vatican will be doing all in thwir power to squeeze as much as they can from the government and taxpayers to They do what they like!

What many are probably thinking is this – it appears its an attempt to reduce christian presence in health care, specifically christianity and its opposition to abortion comes to mind.

Remove a public facing christian institution and you remove a touch point and a counter balance to argue the case against abortion.

In the UK, someone silently praying outside an abortion clinic will get them arrested.

Nuff said.

Daniel O'CONNELL2:01 pm 25 May 23

People have been arrested for praying outside the ACT abortion clinic as well

If you are going to comment on arrests outside abortion clinics in ACT at least tell the truth.

The ACT has enacted provisions making it a criminal offence to interfere with a person accessing an abortion clinic or to protest in the vicinity of a clinic during its hours of operation. Anyone who has been arrested has infringed those provisions.

Furthermore, in 2019, the High Court of Australia upheld those laws that protect people from being accosted and harassed outside abortion clinics.

Bob the impala4:41 pm 25 May 23

“Remove a public facing christian institution and you remove a touch point and a counter balance to argue the case against abortion “

stevew77, is the institution of the Catholic Church being removed from the public space, or its own churches? Are you? I see no impediment to their and your continuing objections.

What part of the function of a public hospital is it to proselytise the minority views of one of many churches?

Cranky Chook10:06 am 12 Jun 23

It’s not just about abortion. What if a woman needs a hysterectomy? What if a woman is having a miscarriage? What if a woman needs the morning after pill? What about ectopic pregnancy? What if a female patient is taking contraception for that matter? None of these questions are clearly answered by Calvary and so women either get a rude shock if they are unaware of the implications of the hospital’s Catholic ethos, or they make the extra trip to Woden.

Its all about trying to block people accessing abortions and end of life services.

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