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Policy experts slam “appalling” Calvary Hospital takeover process

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Archbishop Christopher Prowse. Photo: Giovanni Portelli

The ACT Government continues to come under fire over its proposed takeover of Calvary Hospital in Bruce, this time for its “appalling” lack of proper process and failure to properly acknowledge the religious dimension of the crisis.

Andrew Podger, a professor of public policy at the Australian National University, slammed the territory government for its lack of consultation with the public and stakeholders including Calvary management, doctors, nurses and other staff.

“The lack of consultation makes suspicions of other agendas understandable, despite ACT Government denials,” Mr Podger wrote in The Canberra Times on 4 June.

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“Are Calvary’s religious beliefs a contributory factor in the decision?

“If so, let’s be open about the matter and tease out the impact, if any, on access to abortion and (in future) voluntary euthanasia.

“My understanding is that such services are more likely to be offered outside our main public hospitals so that Calvary’s attitude would not limit access.”

Mr Podger said a range of issues that should have been “carefully considered” included the performance of both Canberra Hospital and Calvary Hospitals, a public assessment of the policy options, and needed reforms to the health system in the ACT which is suffering from an acute shortage of GPs.

“What I am certain of is that the process has been appalling,” he wrote.

Former independent MLA Michael Moore, who served as the ACT’s minister for health and community care from 1998 to 2001, told the ABC that he thought the government was taking a risk in its approach.

“What would’ve been much better would be to go through a proper process and then make the decision, even after the next election,” he said.

“There’s no particular rush to do this. The big rush is actually to get the Canberra Hospital and those health systems – emergency wait times, elective surgery wait times – under control.”

Efficiency has won but humanity has lost: Archbishop Prowse

Canberra-Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse met with Calvary Hospital staff on 1 June and said he thought the takeover will be viewed in future as a low point for democracy.

“Efficiency has won but humanity has lost,” he said.

“The arguments put forward by the government were all about efficiency, which is good, but what happens here is more than just efficiency, it’s also profound human values at play.

“It’s not a machine, this is a human family. You certainly can change structures, but you can’t change the whole culture and ethos of the place.

“The Catholic values that are cherished here can’t be just be supplanted and turned off overnight.”

Calvary Health has launched a legal challenge to the ACT Government takeover, with a full-day hearing on the possibility of an injunction set for 7 June.

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