15 May 2023

Catholic Church raises fears of compensation payout to Calvary over 'Stalinist' acquisition plans

| Genevieve Jacobs
Join the conversation
priest at altar

Canberra Goulburn archdiocese Vicar General Father Richard Thompson. Photo: Genevieve Jacobs.

Catholic parishioners across Canberra and southeastern NSW have been asked to gear up for a fight on the compulsory acquisition of Calvary Hospital as the church raises the spectre of enforcing a full payout of the remaining 76-year contract, valued at $276 million per annum.

The ACT Government has already set aside $1 billion to build a new Northside public hospital on the site and taxpayers may need to fund significant compensation to the Little Company of Mary if the acquisition proceeds.

A deal for the ACT Government to acquire the hospital fell through in 2010, but during negotiations, the ACT Government solicitor advised that unless Calvary agreed not to seek compensation, it could claim restitution for giving up its assets before the lease expired.

A Calvary Hospital Taskforce led by former Vice General Father Tony Percy has been set up to marshall support for the fight against the acquisition as senior church figures describe the reaction among Catholics across the region as “hostile in the extreme”.

READ ALSO Ambushed Calvary digs in for legal battle over hospital takeover

Calvary Hospital is not owned by the Canberra Goulburn Archdiocese, which does not control its operations. But Archbishop Christopher Prowse told church-goers, “There is a rising fear that this extraordinary and completely unnecessary government intervention could set the scene for future ‘acquisitions’ of any faith-based health facility, or indeed any faith-based enterprise including education or social welfare”.

In a letter read out at churches from Eden to West Wyalong over the weekend (13-14 May), Archbishop Prowse said no convincing reasons had been offered for the “draconian” acquisition of the public hospital.

“No systemic issues of concern regarding Calvary’s health outcomes have been identified; to the contrary, the Health Minister made a point of emphasising Calvary’s excellent care for patients. I am deeply troubled about this situation and its implications”, the letter said.

Vicar General Father Richard Thompson told Region that the decision had prompted profound shock and disbelief among church members and, particularly, employees of various faith-based institutions.

READ ALSO No holds barred: Government’s new ruthless edge carries big risks

He said the church hoped people would “wise up” to the ACT Government and the possibilities the decision opens up for privately owned institutions, particularly those receiving government funding to provide care to the community.

“People are using language like nationalisation, Stalinist, dictatorial,” he said.

“Those are their words, not mine, but there’s no doubt the reaction is deeply hostile.

“There seems to me, personally, to be some deceitful actions and unethical behaviour on the government’s behalf, and it’s upset a lot of people seriously. It would shake many voters to their core, in my view.”

An online petition has been launched, noting that “the proposed timeframe demonstrates a complete unwillingness on the part of the ACT Government to dialogue with its citizens” and “that the ACT Government does not have the competency to run a second hospital, as it is already struggling to provide adequate services at the Canberra Hospital”.

Parishioners are being urged to sign the petition before the legislation for acquisition becomes effective on 31 May.

Join the conversation

All Comments
  • All Comments
  • Website Comments

Good to see more separation of religion and government. The sooner this the ACT gains full control of the health system the better.

A church isn’t a business. If they want to behave like one, they can pay taxes like one (should)

This issue seems to have got the Church hierarchy all agitated & concerned. Its a shame they didn’t show the same level of interest & concern to children abused by clergy.

Buckle up folks!! No one gets down and dirty like the Catholic Church! Out there for themselves, moralising, throwing their weight around and interfering in our lives. They are always there, in politics, the media and our bedrooms!
Now they are on a mission, noses out of joint at the government’s Calvary hospital takeover. They are out there in all of their force, to show the Barr government a thing or two!
Over 40 years of the Catholic church bludging off taxpayers to fund its hospital. This has included land gifted to them and ongoing public funding for them to operate and buildings which they now own. A hospital which the Catholic church has allowed to run down.
The church is now trying to squeeze every cent from our government and its taxpaying citizens. This includes compensation for the assets already owned and paid for by taxpayers.
I haven’t forgotten the 2016 auditor’s report which turned into a 147 scathing indictment into the inappropriate financial practices of the Calvary Hospital and its management.
Stay strong ACT government!

Free land, free building and tax free profits; the Little Sisters are making it pay big time. Might pay to check their insurance as the Catholic Church is already battling to pay restitution to abused children. Compensation should be moot given their vows of poverty.

Capital Retro4:05 pm 18 May 23

The University of Canberra paid the ACT Government for the vast land and a hospital, did they?

The Islamic Centre in Monash couldn’t pay for the land they bought so the ACT Government extinguished the debt and told them they could also build a mosque there.

Let’s see a little balance please.

Twisting and mangling facts again CR! Just where do you get your information from?

GrumpyGrandpa3:50 pm 15 May 23

It’s seems to be solely about the ALP/Greens’ ideology. It’s hardly surprising that legislation to enable this decision has occurred at a time that they are introducing public funding of terminations and assisted dying.

We all know that under Government management there are issues at TCH. I recently waited on ED for 8 has before seeing a Dr. Do we really want the same management in charge of Calvary.

Had there been an issue with Calvary’s management or level of care, then there may have been clauses that enabled the termination of their contract. Otherwise, I think we can all expect that the Little Company of Mary would be expecting compensation of some sort. Whether you support the Catholic Church or not, decisions like this by the Government, could cost us, the taxpayers, a bucket load.

The wait times at both hospitals are nearly always similar give or take an hour when they are lengthy.
The Catholic Church has barely upgraded the publicly funded hospital over its lifetime, yet managed to build an entirely new state of the art private one in a couple of years.
The hospital isn’t big enough for the population as it is, let alone growing at the rapid pace it is.
For the sake of the health of not only Canberrans but surrounding regions, it’s necessary.
Calvary doesn’t even have paediatrics, less than half the population can be serviced at Calvary due to the lack of paeds and specialists/beds. We desperately need the hospital to be double it’s capacity and the Catholic Church certainly haven’t offered an alternative.

I wish Father Thompson would explain to us why he thinks the Catholic Church should be running a hospital ?

My understanding was, and still is, that the territory would retake control of the Bruce Hospital. This understanding is based on public discourse over a 20-year plus period where I believe the ACT Government representatives on several occasions on public radio indicated their intention. I don’t believe this is coming out of the blue.

This is an utterly appalling decision by the Minister and we really need to wonder who is advising her. To start with, where is the consultation with stakeholders? Medical staff, consumers? Oh … that’s right … there was none. The process was so hasty it seems there was no time for that. Needed to get the legislation introduced!
The Minister spoke of “fragmented” service delivery. Presumably that’s the elephant in the room where it’s about things like reproductive health and voluntary assisted dying. Pregnancy termination occurs at Marie Stopes Clinic, not at TCH. Voluntary assisted dying is surely not intended to occur in hospitals, but rather, in a person’s own home.
There publicly available reports criticising TCH — both in terms of treatment of staff and other issues, including clinical issues — so I’m not sure why you’d add to this. It makes no sense.
Public hospitals the world over, including in other Australian capital cities, are run by a variety of organisations, including the Catholics. Why single out Calvary?
The Canberra community will be left with a fragmented service provided by ACT Health, an organisation that has proven to be less than efficient or effective — over and over again.
And let’s not speak of the other (huge) elephant in the room: the cost to the taxpayers of the ACT. The cost to undertake this is massive and will serve no good purpose other than achieving an outcome of a petulant Minister.

Stephen Saunders11:11 am 15 May 23

Australia has a long-term political settlement with the Catholic Party. They get massive freebies and concessions. Especially on school funding. Without the bother of having to run for Parliament.

If anyone tampers with the prescribed arrangements, out come their howitzers. Albanese will never defy them. Amusingly, Barr is.

There is simply no logical reason, for “Sisters of Mary” to control Canberra’s second major hospital. It’s 19th century. The idea that they’d play fair, on reproductive rights or assisted dying, is just not credible.

Calvary Health Care should be concerned their public hospitals in Newcastle, Sydney and Melbourne will also be nationalised by those state governments.

Extremely shocked by this draconian move by the Act government. And the fact it was done without any proper consultation is very concerning.

Please clean up the mess in TCH before taking over Calvary.

Some very imaginative name calling. Here’s one more: child abuse.

$276 Million per annum? Is that how much profit the Catholic Church is making each year thanks to the taxpayers of Canberra. Ending this deal can’t come soon enough.

megsy, Calvary is a not-for-profit health care organisation.

“Is that how much profit the Catholic Church is making each year thanks to the taxpayers of Canberra.”


Hopefully that clears it up for you, that a non profit organisation receiving funds to provide services, is indeed using those funds to provide those services.

Amazing huh.

Chewy14 – then why does this article suggest they are going to seek compensation of $276 million per year for the remaining term of the contract, when they won’t be providing services?

Firstly, the article doesn’t suggest they will seek that level of compensation.

The second part of your query is fairly standard for contract breaches, obviosuly depending on the specific terms.

The contract has a set value, of course the initial position of the organsiation could be that the full value should be paid out, regardless of the provision of services. The government is the one that wants out. Almost zero chance of that being the final amount in this case though despite any media sensationalism.

Also has nothing to do with profit as you originally claimed.

Bob the impala4:12 pm 15 May 23

chewy14, given termination, the organisation currently running the hospital has a responsibility to extract itself as efficiently as possible, acting to minimise proper costs to the client (the government).

The $276M mentioned as annual contract value comprises mostly operating costs (staff and maintenance), those which are being taken over by the government. There is no compensation for costs not incurred. If the current organisation owns any assets relevant to operations then they may seek depreciated cost recovery, though it has been stated that the existing hospital is already government funded for capital items.

Please describe the non-cost or future value components for which a non-profit might otherwise seek compensation?

The ‘$276M’ or ‘payout of the full 76 years’ are just beat-ups.

Read the first paragraph about the amount someone from the church has suggested.

Governments can and do change service delivery arrangements. There is nothing unusual about this.

If it really was being delivered on a not-for-profit basis, the only reason why the church would be seeking more than reasonable costs associated with the wrapping up a service (which would probably include severance pay for staff who can’t or won’t transfer to CHS) would be because they are currently profiting from it or it subsidising the costs of other operations.

The first paragraph is unsourced words written by the author. It isn’t then backed up by anything sourced from Church or Calvary representatives in the article and I don’t think anyone would seriously think this type of amount was being actually suggested.

Pretty sure we agree seeing as I’ve said above “Almost zero chance of that being the final amount in this case though despite any media sensationalism.”

On reflection I didn’t need to add the “almost”, the chances are zero.

Daily Digest

Want the best Canberra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Riotact stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.