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.
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.
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.”
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.”