The officials of Calvary Public Hospital have vowed to challenge the legislation in court, while Archbishop Fisher calls for letters to the Prime Minister.
The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) Government has voted to allow the forcible takeover of the Catholic-run Calvary Public Hospital. The compulsory acquisition of the medical facility is expected to begin almost immediately and be complete by the first week of July. Calvary Health Care, however, has vowed a legal challenge to the legislation, with the hospital’s chief executive calling the government’s actions a “pre-dawn raid.”
According to CathNews, the legislation was passed with a 14-7 vote, on May 31. Prior to the vote, acting opposition leader Jeremy Hanson brought attention to the concerns voiced by healthcare professionals and senior nurses who have called the culture at Canberra Health Service “toxic.” He also highlighted a petition from the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese with some 32,000 signatures against the acquisition.
Hanson also accused the ACT government of deceitful practices in regards to the cost of the acquisition. He noted that the hospital should come with a price tag of around AU$200 million, while there has been no explanation of what “just” compensation for Calvary should be. The last time money was discussed was in 2010, when the government was in talks over a possible purchase of Calvary Hospital for AU$77 million. These talks fell apart when the government learned they would need to see Vatican approval for the deal.
“This all calls into concern if this is all being done on ‘just terms.’ Certainly the processes to date have been anything but just,” Hanson commented before the vote.
Chief minister Andrew Barr was on hand to defend the bill, arguing that the government would need control of the hospital due to population growth and aging of the community. While he spoke, a group of about 50 protestors stood outside the ACT Legislative Assembly chanting “Jesus heals, Barr steals.”
Calvary Healthcare has vowed to challenge the vote in court. The day before the vote, on Tuesday, The Guardian reported that Calvary Healthcare officials stated that legal recourse was the “only response left available.” Calvary’s chief executive, Martin Bowles, said the takeover came as a shock, as the hospital had 76 years on their contract with the state. He was incredulous as he called the requirement to transition in a matter of weeks, “unbelievable.”
Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher has called on Catholics to join him in writing to the Australian Prime Minister in order to voice their displeasure with the situation. He warned that the forced acquisition of Calvary could embolden the government to arbitrarily take ownership of other Church properties:
“Indeed, every time a government does act, it seems to be to further restrict religious freedoms, rather than safeguard them.” The prelate continued, “It is an action so egregious that even secular organizations such as the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation have condemned it, saying the hard-working and dedicated staff at Calvary ‘deserved better.’”