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Hostile takeover of Calvary Hospital in the ACT

The announcement by the ACT government on 10 May that it would introduce legislation to enable the government to compulsorily acquire Calvary Public Hospital in Bruce has come as a shock to many in Australia.



Calvary Hospital has served the people of Canberra for 44 years. It is a highly respected institution. It is well managed and functioning successfully. There is no fundamental or compelling issue which would justify the government seizing ownership and control. While the ACT government has publicly cited greater efficiency and better health delivery as reasons for the takeover, there is evidence of deeper ideological reasons for their actions.

A recent government inquiry into access to abortion in the ACT spoke of Calvary Hospital as being “problematic … due to the overriding religious ethos” of the hospital. The report commented that “it is intensely problematic for the ACT to be reliant on a public hospital that will not provide termination of pregnancy services”.

The decision by the government to acquire Calvary is clearly motivated by an ideological position concerning access to abortion.

Catholic hospitals provide ten percent of hospital services across Australia. They work in close collaboration with governments and are able to complement, and not compete with, many services offered by other public hospitals. They are a respected part of the high quality of health services that Australians enjoy.

The move has unsettled the 1,800 staff members who have not been consulted. They worry about the effect of new management on the quality of care offered by the hospital. For those who have specifically chosen to work in a Catholic hospital there are serious concerns about working in an environment which is no longer grounded in Christian belief about the sacredness of life.

Catholic hospitals enjoy great respect because of the environment they provide. This welcoming and caring environment is grounded in the spiritual principles of their founding religious orders.  Catholic hospitals, in particular, are conscious of the spiritual needs as well as the physical needs of patients and provide pastoral care services. They treat and care for the whole person. Many people have great appreciation for the care they receive in Catholic hospitals like Calvary, Bruce, where the culture of the hospital has played an important role in supporting them through challenging personal times.

This unprecedented action by a government in Australia flies in the face of our democratic processes.

Indeed, the ACT government is intending to suspend the usual requirements for proper scrutiny to ensure a rapid process of legislation. It intends that the legislation be passed by 31 May and acquisition completed by 3 July. The whole process is rushed and will cause much uncertainty and distress for both staff and patients.

This is the act of a government overstepping its rightful authority. Without any proper consultation, without any parliamentary scrutiny, a Catholic institution is seized and taken over simply because its beliefs do not align with those of the government. No compelling public case has been made for such an aggressive action. This is a worrying development. It would establish a very dangerous precedent which other governments would cite to justify their own similar types of actions. It fundamentally undermines the democratic values that lie at the heart of our system of government and completely disregards the notion of respect for religious freedom.

If this move is allowed to succeed no non-government institution will be safe from a hostile takeover for purely ideological reasons.

Faith-based institutions like Calvary Hospital offer an important contribution to the quality of life in Australia. Often faith-based initiatives in education and health care were established well before government commitments in these areas. Indeed, governments have recognised the contribution that such organisations have made to society and have willingly provided funds because they recognise that they are well placed to provide for the needs of the community.

Governments should be fostering such services and encouraging them to continue to serve the community according to their particular founding principles. This hostile takeover flies in the face of what governments and the community have long recognised and respected.

This takeover is being driven by an ideological bias against a Catholic hospital which does not provide abortion. It is the act of a government that no longer respects due process and religious freedom. We should all be greatly concerned. While they have chosen to come after the Catholic Church on this occasion, if the entire Australian community do not stand in opposition to such an act, no non-government institution will be safe.  Please stand with Calvary Health Care Australia and the Catholic Church in opposing this egregious act.

I invite you to sign the online petition in opposition to the takeover of Calvary Hospital:



    One response to “Hostile takeover of Calvary Hospital in the ACT”

    1. Florence D'Costa says:

      I am not in favour of the takeover. I think we are always showing the other cheek but there are times when we have to stand up for what is true and let our opinions be known. Thank you Archbishop Julian for starting this blog.

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