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Australian gov’t to annex Catholic hospital without Vatican approval

Emergency sign at hospital

Nils Versemann | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 05/18/23

The Archdiocese was never consulted or informed of the decision for the government to forcibly take over the hospital, which has been Catholic since 1979.

The Australian Capital Territory government (ACT) has announced plans to nationalize a Catholic hospital, against the wishes of the Church. The decision to annex the Catholic-run hospital came after negotiations to purchase the property stalled, as the sale needed Vatican approval. Rather than seeking such approval, the government has chosen to forcibly annex the hospital.

According to the Pillar, the property in question is Calvary Public Hospital, a Catholic hospital in the Canberra suburb of Bruce. Calvary has been owned and operated by the Little Company of Mary Health Care since 1979. While they have maintained autonomy to provide Catholic based healthcare, the hospital has received funds from the government for public healthcare services.

In 2010, the government began negotiations with the hospital to purchase it outright for AU$77 million, but this was ultimately abandoned when they found they would need the Vatican to approve of the sale. The Pillar notes that the decision to annex the hospital came as part of efforts to restructure Canberra Health Services. The ACT government has pledged to invest AU$1 billion to update the hospital’s facilities. 

ABC provides comments from Walter Abheyeratna, the ACT president of the Australian Medical Association, who said that it was important to deliver healthcare services without being bound by ideology, suggesting it is the Catholic values that drove the decision for the government to forcibly take possession of Calvary. 

“There’s no doubt that Calvary Health Care’s done an incredible job over the decades, but the complexity of having the public health system being governed by a different organisation threw a lot of spanners in the works,” Professor Abheyeratna said. “This now gives us an opportunity to design a healthcare system in an efficient way.”

Meanwhile Archbishop Christopher Prowse, of the Catholic Archdiocese of Canberra & Goulburn, expressed his shock that the Archdiocese had not been notified or consulted about the matter. The prelate asked: 

“It opens up the question for us — does that now mean that all institutions in the ACT [are] now potentially open for a government acquisition?”

Read more at ABC.

AustraliaCatholicismHealth and Wellness
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