31 May 2023

Compulsory takeover of Calvary Public Hospital Bruce passed through Assembly

| Claire Fenwicke
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Rachel Stephen-Smith

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith said the formal transition process of Calvary Public Hospital Bruce’s assets and staff to the government was expected to be completed by 3 July. Photo: Claire Fenwicke.

Legislation to allow the forcible acquisition of Calvary Public Hospital Bruce has succeeded, allowing for a transition of services to the ACT Government to begin once notified.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith outlined in the Assembly on Wednesday (31 May) that the Health Infrastructure Enabling Bill had become necessary due to issues with the past dealings with Calvary Health Care.

“In 2009, the Little Company of Mary agreed to transfer the entirety of the Block to the ACT Government … of course, we know the whole deal fell through when the Little Company of Mary withdrew its support in early 2010,” she said.

“And it did so, at least in part, because it could not get agreement from the Vatican to transfer ownership to the ACT Government.”

Ms Stephen-Smith argued the new Calvary Network Agreement had been agreed to in late 2011 to enable a “better networked public hospital system” with more engagement and accountability.

However, the government felt the agreement had continued to be a “constraint on collaboration” and on progressing culture reform.

Ms Stephen-Smith also explained Calvary had been consulting with staff about its own master plan for services, and so the government felt they needed to make the “difficult decision” to undertake a forcible acquisition.

“We need to get on with the planning and construction of a new hospital, and we are certain that the decision we have made – hard though it is, and I absolutely recognise that it has come as a shock to many Calvary staff – is the right decision, made in the best interests of Canberrans,” she said.

“This bill provides certainty over the land that will enable us to get on with developing the new northside hospital in partnership with those who will use it and those who will work in it.

“As well as acquiring the land, this bill enables the transition of operations of the existing Calvary Public Hospital Bruce to Canberra Health Services – bringing together the ACT’s public hospitals and community health services into a single network.”

READ ALSO Committee chair slams decision for zero scrutiny on Calvary takeover bill

In the debate throughout the day, the issue of how staff found out about the acquisition earlier this month was repeatedly raised.

Ms Stephen-Smith said while they hadn’t been allowed to consult with staff or unions, they had been consulting with Calvary Health Care “for months”.

“I don’t think this was [a] secret from Calvary at all. Calvary Health Care had been advised in April last year that if we were unable to reach an agreement that we would consider introducing legislation to compulsorily acquire the land that we need to invest a billion dollars to build a new northside hospital for the people of the ACT,” she said.

“We want that hospital to be owned by Canberrans, not by some private company, and we were very clear with Calvary that that was absolutely our bottom line and we were not able to reach agreement on how that was going to occur, despite months and months of formal negotiations.”

The formal transition period is set to begin once the legislation has been officially notified, which is expected to occur either tomorrow (1 June) or Friday morning.

Ms Stephen-Smith said some tweaks had been made to the legislation, which would allow all entitlements, including flex time, to be transferred over once staff accepted their formal offer from Canberra Health Services.

“[Another change is] when staff accept the offer of employment at Canberra Health Services, the regulation will operate to automatically terminate their employment with Calvary Health Care ACT on the acquisition day, so they won’t have to take that extra step of resigning,” she said.

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The Canberra Liberals voted against the Health Infrastructure Enabling Bill but were defeated.

Acting leader Jeremy Hanson said he understood Calvary was going to wait until the legislation was notified to file their court action.

“I’ve heard from a number of very senior lawyers in the ACT who have looked at the legislation … some have suggested High Court, some have suggested Federal Court action, and there are differing arguments of why that would be the case,” he said.

“Calvary has chosen to go to the High Court and is going to be arguing, it would seem … on ‘just terms’.

“The way I understand that, just terms is more than just the money. You can’t just pay people out with the money, it’s got to be a just result, and that will now be a matter, it will appear, for the High Court.”

If the court action fails, and the acquisition is cemented before the 2024 election, Mr Hanson said his party wouldn’t undo the acquisition if they took power.

“If it’s done, it’s done. You cannot unscramble the egg,” he said.

“To be frank, I think Calvary would be pretty reticent to sign any contract with any ACT Government going forward. Let’s face it, the current agreement they’ve signed with the ACT Government in good faith is not worth the paper it is written on.”

A Calvary Health Care spokesperson said the organisation was “deeply disappointed” the legislation had passed.

As previously stated, Calvary intends to challenge the validity of the legislation,” they said.

“Calvary anticipates commencing such proceedings in the very near future.”

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Graeme Church4:23 pm 06 Jun 23

This is nothing more than an act of belligerent bullying by the :Labir/Green Governmentwho is determined to force their own ideology on Christian staf fand force them to carry out abortions and euthanasia. I don’t want a Barr of the Labor Party

They’ll fight when there’s a Vatican cash cow under attack. Never understood why any of the Abrahamic religions wanted to prolong someone’s Earthly existence when the ultimate reward awaits upon death? Then again it might all be about Earthly power and the accumulation of wealth to protect that power.

Daniel O'CONNELL9:31 am 01 Jun 23

With the private hospital area excluded, the remaining area looks very small to accomodate a major public hospital. I suspect the government is already looking to expand into the beuatiful adjoining forested land.

Peter Herman3:30 am 01 Jun 23

@Jack D
You are joking arent you
Calvary is 100% better than Canberra
The ACT Health minister just wants to ‘big note’ herself
I don’t know whether you have visited both hospitals(I have) and Canberra hospital staff are in some cases great or as tough as hell
The expansion whilst welcome is lacking disabled parking and also is no longer a learning hospital
Calvery on the other hand, the staff treat you like a patient, parking for disabled is great and the one is treated like a person and NOT a number
The ACT govt are just, as usual wasting taxpayer dollars and as usual got their priorities up their noses
The sooner that we get rid of the Labor/Greens the better
This mob are just trying out ‘big note’ themselves and sorry it’s not working

Peter Herman, if Calvary’s management is so wonderful, why did it recently lose accreditation to deliver cancer services? That happened because the Zita Mary Clinic needed many upgrades that the church wasn’t prepare to fund (expected the tax payer to). The recent fire demonstrated that the poor building design put patients and staff at risk because smoke could easily circulate. The Xavier and Lewisham buildings need a lot of work and Calvary’s only plan is to expect the taxpayer to foot the bill; and they have refused to engage in meaningful discussions with the govt on a way forward.

I’ve been a patient at both TCH and Calvary and I didn’t experience any difference of care between the two.

Finagen_Freeman12:05 pm 01 Jun 23

Megsy, well said. Clearly you are well informed (thank you minister’s office), but lest you forget (or neglect) to mention CHS has also failed accreditation. CHS has also had fires caused by ancient buildings and overloaded electrical circuits. CHS has the culture issues (not Calvary). Building upgrades to Calvary were always funded by capital from ACT Treasury funding bids. The Calvary Network Agreement was drawn up by the ACT Government Solicitor’s Office and states Calvary are funded for services, and not capital.

Small missing details, but important to understand, case anyone thinks Calvary has reneged on any aspect of the CNA.

I am not connected in anyway with the Minister’s office so I don’t understand that reference – for the record, I am retired and have never worked for the ACT government or any of Canberra’s hospitals. I have, however, been a patient at both public hospitals.

I never neglected to mention Canberra has also failed accreditation. I was simply trying to address Peter’s claim Calvary was 100% better than Canberra. That is not correct and things go wrong at Calvary too (I’m personally dealing with a blood clot that developed when I was in surgery at Calvary and have been on medication for it for seven months).

Both hospitals do a mainly good job, but both also have patients who develop complications.

It’s also naïve to claim Calvary doesn’t have the same culture problems as Canberra. I’ve heard staff bitch about management. I’ve also witnessed junior staff being bullied.

Both have building problems though there is a major upgrade at Canberra trying to address some of the problems. There should have been a similar upgrade at Calvary but it has been hampered by Calvary being unwilling to engage in negotiations.

I have been a patient of both hospitals and have been receiving treatment from the Canberra Hospital over a number of months now Peter Herman. I also underwent major surgery at Calvary a few years ago. I can’t fault the care I received from both hospitals.
Adequate disabled parking is offered at both Canberra and Calvary. The multi-level parking at Calvary hospital cost taxpayers $18 million just a few years ago. Before this, visitors were parking their cars illegally and spilling over into the neighbouring bushland and suburbs.
Canberra Hospital has multi-level car-parks with a significant number of disabled parking bays and easy access to lifts and the hospital reception. The entire ground level is reserved for disabled parking. I am not a disabled driver but note that there are more than adequate spaces at any time of the day on any level when I arrive!

Been to both hospitals, one as a patient (calvary) which was a good experience under the circumstances. Went to Canberra hospital with my wife to have our second child for c section and waited 3hrs only to be told to comeback tomorrow due to lack of staff?

Taking orders from the Vatican and denying services based on religious teachings isn’t what we want as a community.

Yeah agreed, we need to be able to kill babies and old people without guilt 👍
Got to get rid of those boomers some how and free up that housing 👍

Sure I will counter that load of cynicism with my own:

“These boomers who support The Church also wants to be able to systematically rape kids and get away with it.”

Barr Government is giving me Soviet vibes after this move. I guess it goes with their rubbish lack of services they offer those not living in Braddon

Thank goodness for Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith and a government brave enough to be bold! The hospital is only one of two major hospitals in the ACT. The Calvary takeover should have happened years ago. The Vatican scuttled any previous attempt to reach an agreement on the hospital’s future. The hospital was built in the 1970’s. It is run-down and not fit for purpose. The legislation paves the way for the building of a new and modern hospital, owned and operated by the public. A hospital built to cope with our rapid population growth and future health needs.
The small number of opponents to the proposal who turned up to the Assembly today were a wild eyed and rowdy bunch, shouting scorn at Labor and its chief minister Andrew Barr. Many are members of conservative fringe groups including Advance Australia and the Australian Christian Lobby, arriving at the Assembly from interstate. Arriving holding bibles and rosary beads and reciting prayers!
The debate was even better. Opposition leader and conservative hard man Jeremy Hanson, angry and with furrowed brows, snarling and sniping across the chamber trying his best to look like a leader. Undermining the ACT’s public health system and its many doctors, nurses and support staff. Elizabeth Kikkert was her usual shrill self. The party’s invisible health spokesperson Leanne Castley tried her clunky best and Ed Cocks was his usual dull and boring self.
Johnathan Davis was a standout again. Andrew Barr, Rachel-Stephen Smith, Chris Steel and Shane Rattenbury were also standouts.
Well done ACT government!

Haha, Jack D, this is one of your top 3 most ridiculously partisan and unhinged posts.

When even the unions and staff disagree with the actions taken by our arrogant government, you know they’ve really gone off the edge.

Although once again, you seem to know so much about what happens each day in and around the assembly. Almost like you’re paid to be there…..

Unfortunately chewy I had other commitments on the day and was not able to be there. I had to make do with reading media which was wide-ranging. I also watched proceedings on the parliamentary website.
It provided me with a greater understanding and insight into why the current line up of Canberra Liberals will never be elected to government!

Finagen_Freeman12:08 pm 01 Jun 23

Well said minister’s assistant. Nothing wrong with going in to bat for your boss.

“The small number of opponents to the proposal who turned up to the Assembly today were a wild eyed and rowdy bunch, shouting scorn at Labor and its chief minister Andrew Barr. Many are members of conservative fringe groups including Advance Australia and the Australian Christian Lobby, arriving at the Assembly from interstate. Arriving holding bibles and rosary beads and reciting prayers!”

Strange that you have such a detailed and personal view of the minutiae occurring outside the assembly, gleaned only from a few news snippets.

Very strange indeed.

HiddenDragon6:39 pm 31 May 23

“Calvary has chosen to go to the High Court and is going to be arguing, it would seem … on ‘just terms’.”

If the High Court agrees to hear such a case, the decision could be most interesting, regardless of what it means for the Calvary acquisition legislation – there are other activities of the ACT government which might come under closer scrutiny in light of a refreshed and, perhaps, expanded consideration of ‘just terms’ by that Court.

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