3 May 2023

Calvary Hospital slams claims 'religious ethos' influences healthcare, calls for government redaction

| Claire Fenwicke
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Calvary Public Hospital Bruce

Calvary CEOs have called on the ACT Government to correct the record over the healthcare services it provides in Canberra. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Calvary Hospital has rejected claims it restricts its healthcare services because of its religious affiliations and demanded the ACT Government redacts such suggestions from an inquiry report.

A standing committee inquiry into the Territory’s abortion and reproductive choices labelled the hospital’s “overriding religious ethos” as “problematic” following a submission to the inquiry from a woman who had claimed she had been denied a dilation and curettage (D&C) procedure at the hospital after suffering an incomplete miscarriage.

She had told the inquiry that because the procedure could be used for abortions, Calvary Public Hospital had “refused” to perform it.

ACT Regional CEO Ross Hawkins said this was incorrect.

“The poor woman had an awful experience and offered her story … questioning it [during the hearing] wouldn’t have been right,” he said.

“But if the committee had spoken with us [afterwards], we would have been more than happy to correct the record, but we’ve had no contact.

“I want to make it clear to the public that we do offer this service.”

Mr Hawkins said they had been unable to confirm whether the woman had presented to Calvary Public Hospital’s emergency department as she had been given a pseudonym for the hearings.

“It’s not clear who gave her the advice around Calvary … but it appears she was given the advice rather than presented to our hospital,” he said.

“If a woman is having a miscarriage, under any circumstance, and if they are worried, they can come to our ED.”

Calvary Hospital had decided not to make a submission or appear during public hearings for this inquiry as it felt its views on termination fell outside the terms of reference.

It did supply the ACT Government with an outline of the services it does offer.

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Calvary Hospital operates under the Code of Ethical Standards for Catholic Health and Aged Care Services, which means it does not provide elective termination services.

Calvary National CEO Martin Bowles said the services it does provide were “misrepresented” by the government in the report.

“For the safety and wellbeing of women within the Territory, I believe there is a need to reassure Canberrans so they can have confidence in the services we provide, when and where they need them,” he said.

“Calvary does respond in situations when a mother (and/or the unborn child she carries) suffers an urgent, life-threatening condition during pregnancy.

“In these instances, and with informed patient consent, our clinicians provide medically indicated treatment, even if this treatment poses a risk to the foetus or may result in the unintended death of the unborn child.”

The hospital has a policy to refer a person seeking an abortion to their GP or other appropriate services for advice and management of an elective abortion.

Mr Bowles said the hospital would always provide emergency care when a woman’s life was at risk.

“Terminations generally do not necessarily require an acute hospital setting, and to suggest that not offering elective pregnancy terminations at Calvary Public Hospital Bruce is contributing to barriers for such healthcare is misleading by the Standing Committee,” he said.

“I categorically reject any suggestion that our valued staff at Calvary Public Hospital Bruce deliver health services with an ‘overriding religious ethos’ and with ‘implicit moral judgement’.

“I want to reassure all women in the ACT that their care needs will be responded to appropriately when attending our hospital.”

Mr Hawkins said Calvary had contacted the government, particularly Standing Committee on Health and Community chair Johnathan Davis MLA, but had received no response.

The hospital wants the government to correct the record and give a public retraction to what had been stated in the report.

“We directly refute what the [report] has said,” Mr Hawkins said.

“These kind of [claims] clearly stick … We don’t believe they should sit as part of the report or within any government response.

“It’s a frustrating perception to have out there because we do provide this care.”

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Mr Davis said Calvary had been invited to make a submission to the inquiry but chose not to do so.

“We received a number of submissions, we held a number of public hearings and it is my view, and the view of the committee more broadly, that our report accurately represents the evidence presented to us by the committee,” he said.

Mr Davis said Calvary had only sought to speak with them after the committee report was tabled.

“I would hope and expect that as [Calvary is] one of only two public health care providers in the city that receives a substantial amount of public funds to provide their public health care, [they] would have thought to engage on an inquiry of this assembly into abortion and reproductive choice,” he said.

Mr Davis confirmed he had received a letter from Calvary and that the committee was considering its response.

The ACT Government is yet to deliver its official response to the report, which would occur during a sitting of the Legislative Assembly.

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Rubbish. Calvary have being doing this for more than 30years if not more. If they want taxpayer funds for A&E then they need to offer D&Cs after rapes etc

There were 52 submissions to the inquiry into abortion and reproductive choice in the ACT. These submissions came from a cross section of society including individuals, churches and advocacy groups. The submissions and the details of the inquiry are on the parliamentary website if you care to look Finagen_Freeman.
Many of the contributors to the inquiry also appeared at the hearings to give evidence which informed the final report.
Calvary Hospital and the Little Company of Mary Health Care failed to make any submission or contribution to the inquiry. As one of Canberra’s principal hospitals, this showed a remarkable lack of concern or understanding on their part for the importance of women’s reproductive choices and their health.

Calvary has been unfairly treated by ideologues here, clearly. Obviously a lone complaint should have referred to them to clear the record for the sake of other members of the public seeking help in emergencies. As an atheist I appreciated the wonderful care I received, and suspect the religious ethos at the place’s foundations has something to with it

Daniel O'CONNELL1:32 pm 04 May 23

Perhaps the many women who do not support abortion on demand are more than happy to be treated in a hospital that eschews the procedure?

The fact is, Calvary Hospital refuses health care services to women accessing contraception and abortion services. ACT taxpayers fund the hospital which is owned by the Catholic Church, namely the Little Company of Mary Health Care.

Calvary Hospital and the Little Company of Mary Health Care refused to contribute in any way to this inquiry. It says it all about the hospital, its leadership and their lack of interest in women’s reproductive health care.

The ACT’s abortion law reforms have been long fought. Any reforms have been fought against increasingly conservative federal and local Liberal governments. Key opponents of any changes have been ministers of the Canberra Liberals, Advance Australia and the right to life lobby. Many past and current Canberra Liberals continue to be active members and financial contributors to these groups.

Hear hear!
Any hospital that is funded by the taxpayer, must put their “catholic ethos” aside and provide abortion services!

Jenny Graves2:22 pm 04 May 23

I absolutely agree. They have a responsibility to do whatever is requested. It’s not for them to question someone’s personal decisions.

If the hospital isn’t influenced by religion, why is there a big crucifix on it then?

Capital Retro12:06 pm 04 May 23

That’s called “branding” BM.

The Canberra Hospital recently re-branded to CHS (Canberra Health Services but I thought it was Cowra High School at first).

It’s cool to re-brand, just look at CBR which has now become the ACT Government’s brand.

Clever Interrobang4:17 am 04 May 23

It’s not their hospital, it’s publicly funded and so belongs to us

They should offer all services that people are entitled to have, or they should stop taking public money

Finagen_Freeman8:22 pm 03 May 23

One anonymous witness and a damning report is written. Wow – nothing like selective research!

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