17 May 2023

Head of hospital transition team insists nothing 'radical' planned for Calvary Public acquisition process

| Claire Fenwicke
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calvary hospital complex entrance

Calvary Public Hospital Bruce staff have been assured it will be business as usual if the legislation for the ACT Government to acquire the site passes the Legislative Assembly later this month. Photo: Region.

It’s a move that’s been labelled ‘Stalinist’ and a ‘dictatorial-style stitch-up’, but preparations are already underway for the transition of Calvary Public Hospital Bruce to the hands of the ACT Government.

While the formal transition period of all staff, assets and services can’t be started until the Health Infrastructure Enabling Bill 2023 passes the Legislative Assembly, the government wants it all done and dusted by 3 July.

There have been reports a secret team had been set up and had been working on this for the past six months.

That’s something Northside Hospital Transition Team deputy director general Cathie O’Neill has refuted.

She said while there had always been people working on negotiations with Calvary and a potential northside hospital development, which the ACT Government had committed money to in the 2021-22 Budget, her team wasn’t set up until much more recently.

“The operational side of the transition team has only been brought in in the last couple of weeks,” Ms O’Neill said.

“[It was] once the government had made some firm decisions where they were heading with this.”

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Calvary has accused the government of acting out of turn by setting up a portal for staff to start voluntarily registering their details with Canberra Health Services (CHS).

“The Territory is effectively seeking to enforce the legislation before it is even passed by dealing with Calvary’s staff without any right to do so,” a spokesperson said.

“Until such time the legislation is passed, our relationship with the Territory is governed by the Calvary Network Agreement.”

Ms O’Neill agreed legally her team wasn’t allowed to do anything until the bill passed but insisted everything was above board.

“We can’t just administratively transfer their employment; that would actually be a breach of their human rights because, as an individual, you have the right to choose who your employer is,” she said.

“So that’s why we need to go through a process of asking [staff] to register their interest in the first instance.

“We have asked people to start to voluntarily come forward, as much as anything, just so we can make a bit of a headstart testing our process and start to talk to people to allay their anxieties.”

About 30 staff members have already provided information to CHS, and more than 100 have attended information sessions about the acquisition.

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According to the yet-to-be-passed legislation, it is a requirement that both Calvary and the government develop a transition plan and work “co-operatively and collaboratively”.

Even though Calvary Health Care has indicated it is seeking legal advice, Ms O’Neill said she would be focusing on the operational level.

“I think we will be able to work collaboratively at that level, notwithstanding the sensitivities that will be posed going through this,” she said.

“My responsibility is to ensure service continuity, and I know the team at Calvary Public Hospital Bruce are equally committed to delivering service continuity and support for their workforce.”

She said the word ‘transition’ could be misleading, stating things would largely remain the same at the site for several months.

“The staff that are currently working at Calvary Public Hospital Bruce, it’s our intention to offer them all positions, and that position will be the position they’re in at the moment, under the same conditions that they’re currently being employed under, reporting to the same team manager, doing the same work,” Ms O’Neill said.

“We’re not anticipating making any significant changes to start with, and by that, I mean several months … there’s no desire to do anything radical or do anything quickly.”

Ms O’Neill said the team would also work with contractors on the site – such as cleaners, food providers and the childcare centre – to transfer their contracts to CHS, “so there should be no impact on their employees”.

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Some questions have also been raised about how CHS could complete this transition in such a short period.

Ms O’Neill said the digital health record and the intention to keep the same staff in the same jobs simplified the process.

“It’s not as if we’re removing a workforce and having to come in with a brand new workforce the next day,” she said.

As for other processes, such as making sure new pay systems are set up and changing ownership licenses, Ms O’Neill was confident they could be done within the government’s imposed timeframe to ensure the hospital could continue operating safely.

No disruptions are expected anytime soon for patients either, with demolition not expected to begin until 2025.

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Last week it was announced the ACT Government would be taking over the Calvary Public Hospital Bruce site, with more than $1 billion set aside in the 2023-24 Budget for the project.

The introduction of the legislation to make this possible – the Health Infrastructure Enabling Bill 2023 – has also been met with opposition after the Labor-Greens government voted to allow debate on the matter in the Assembly before a scrutiny committee report had been published, which is not usually how bills are treated.

The next sitting week begins on 31 May, and the bill is expected to be debated in this period.

The announcement has been met with fierce opposition, with Canberra Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse galvanising the local community to help with the fight, urging them to sign a petition to reject any attempts by the ACT Government to acquire the site.

Information for staff is available by visiting Northside Hospital, by calling the hotline 5124 0400 (Monday to Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm) or emailing CHS.northsidehospitalenquiries@act.gov.au.

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Suggest that Calvary take their staff and setup a new hospital in the south., waiting for the government to acquire that too.

Robert McCauley12:15 am 20 May 23

“Head of hospital transition team insists nothing ‘radical’ planned for Calvary Public acquisition process”
What? Nothing radical planned ? unlike the compulsory acquisition of land and property!!
One thing this government can’t do is the compulsory acquisition of contractors and medical staff… they will be leaving in droves/ I would say one third will go to government system; a third to bolster the private system and a third either retire or move interstate !
And yes, the approx $200M compensation will be used to build the new state of the art Calvary Hospital in the Queanbeyan area to service the Canberra – NSW region.. and guess what?? the ACT Government will have to pay the NSW Government the cross subsidy for ACT patients… sound silly ?? watch this space.

The rationalisation given for the seizure of Calvary Hospital is obvious tripe. The real reason is virulent religious bigotry. For years the dominant factions in the ACT Labor Party, the ACT Labor Government, and key elements of the heavily Left-polticised ACT government bureaucracy, have made no secret of their detestation of Calvary because of its Catholic character, and especially because of its refusal on principle to let elective abortions and euthanasia be performed on its premises. They have shown an obsessive determination to take the hospital over by hook or by crook, and have now proclaimed that by crook it’s going to be. The new personal anthem of our pathetic wannabe Great Dictator, Andrew Barr, is evidently that old London Music Hall song, “I’m Henry the Eighth I Am”.

@Colin Jory
Do you understand the meaning of secular democracy, Colin?

If the government funds the provision of health services at a public hospital, then they get to decide what services and medical procedures are provided based on the needs of the community the hospital serves – not religious dogma or philosophy.

It’s pretty simple – if the Catholic church wants to run a medical facility according to its articles of faith, then it should politely decline public money and totally fund it out of its very large global purse.

Bob the impala6:16 pm 19 May 23

“vigorous religious bigotry”
Colin Jory, interpretation of your two adjectives and a noun might not be what you supposed.

Head of the Transition Team – Trust me, I work for the government

Margaret Freemantle1:43 pm 18 May 23

Unheard of move! Leave Calvary alone and build a new hospital in Gunghalin

Bob the impala4:33 pm 18 May 23

You haven’t heard about it in the last fifteen years?

Why should an excellent site for a better hospital be left alone?

Out of line ACT Government, there will be heavy compensation due to the Catholic Church which the tax payer will foot for what you are doing.

Bob the impala1:38 pm 18 May 23

For what would that “heavy compensation” be, Mark Reber? Please provide some detail.

That is the problem Mark Reber! All that compensation which the Catholic church has squeezed out of the government. Compensation for assets owned by them but paid for over the years by taxpayers. A hospital funded by the public dollar but discriminates against its citizens by refusing to provide health care and contraception services to women.
Opponents of the Calvary Hospital deal have been very active in the media with their mindless comments. Canberra Liberal MLA’s and the party’s acting leader Jeremy Hanson who are opposed to the deal have also been active in the media.
I ask the question again. Who do the Canberra Liberals really represent in their opposition and outrage over this deal? It is certainly not ACT residents! Many past and present party members and many of its current MLA’s are committed right wing conservatives and church members. They are also supporters and financial contributors to radical right wing Christian lobby groups such as the Right to Life lobby and the Advance Australia fringe group whose President is former Liberal MLA Vicki Dunne!
Just who do they represent?

GrumpyGrandpa9:59 am 19 May 23

Discrimination, seriously! The Government wouldn’t have needed to introduce specific legislation, if the issue was discrimination.

Let’s face it, the decision was about ALP/Greens ideology, nothing more.

In respect to terminations or euthanasia, there are other facilities within Canberra that offer those services. When I was receiving cancer treatment, I had to go to The Canberra Hospital, not because of discrimination, but simply because that’s where the service was provided. Not every hospital provides every service.

The Little Company of Mary has a contract with the ACT Government to manage the Calvary Hospital. It doesn’t matter that contract is with a church enitity or not, when a contract is unilaterally terminated, there could be consequences.

Finagen_Freeman11:47 am 18 May 23

So much spin and misinformation. Nothing better than FOI request or two, to show just how long these covert plans have been underway.

Bob the impala1:36 pm 18 May 23

You mean, since about 2008?

I’m hoping that the Northside Hospital Transition Team is clever enough to identity the many practices Calvary does well and transfers those practices to back Canberra Hospital

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