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Updated: Opposition Leader Peter Dutton slams hospital grab as an “attack on religion”

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Federal opposition leader Peter Dutton called for a reversal of ACT government’s decision to acquire Calvary Hospital in Bruce. Photo: Facebook

Update 15/05/2023

Federal Opposition Leader Peter Dutton has joined the chorus of criticism of the ACT government’s takeover of Calvary Public Hospital in Bruce, calling it an “attack on religion.”

Mr Dutton said he was shocked by the “regrettable” proposal and urged the chief minister to reverse the decision.

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“I’m just not aware of an action like it elsewhere in the country or, frankly, around the world, where a government has taken a decision based on their opposition to a religion, or to compulsorily acquire a hospital in these circumstances, a facility that’s working well, and in the greater public interest, and good in a local community, and just for ideological reasons,” he told local radio station 2CC.

Dr Paul Burt, former head of the anaesthetics departments at both Canberra Hospital and Calvary Public Hospital, has slammed the ACT government accusing it of “dubious managerial competence” in the running of its health service.

“We would be handing over the management of Calvary Hospital to an organisation that can’t organise its own hospital.”

“It’s had problems in cardiology, obstetrics, intensive care, paediatrics, plastic surgery, just to name a few,” he told The Canberra Times.

“We would be handing over the management of Calvary Hospital to an organisation that can’t organise its own hospital.”

The ACT health service is “verging on being utterly indifferent to the public view.”

“If they want to do something, they just do it,” he said.

He echoed the view of doctors’ union Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Federation ACT branch where executive officer Steve Ross expressed concerns about the management of serious ongoing issues at Canberra Hospital.

“Given the ongoing workforce shortages, and ongoing industrial disputes with CHS regarding working conditions, health, safety and wellbeing, ASMOFF ACT are concerned about the capacity of CHS health administrators and executives to manage such fundamental reforms,” he said.

Calvary chaplain Fr Alex Osborne confirmed there was an air of uncertainty at the hospital and he was unsure about what would happen to his own role, or whether religious artworks would be retained.

The fate of the attached palliative care hospice, Clare Holland House is also unclear, with negotiations underway over whether it should also be acquired.

ACT health minister Rachel Stephen-Smith has challenged Calvary National CEO’s Martin Bowles’ assertion that the government’s decision to take over the hospital was unexpected, writing in the Canberra Times that it had “advised Calvary in April 2022 that it would consider legislating to acquire the land if necessary.”

A transition team set up by Canberra Health Services will set up town hall sessions at the Australian Institute of Sport and Canberra Hospital.


Former Archdiocese of Canberra-Goulburn Vicar General Fr Tony Percy is taking the fight to the ACT Government over the compulsory takeover of Calvary Public Hospital, Bruce.

A petition to “Save Calvary Hospital” has also been launched by the archdiocese’s new action group.

“We will not be lying down. The government has got a fight on its hands,” Fr Percy told The Canberra Times.

He pointed to recent governance failures at Canberra Hospital as evidence that the Canberra health directorate shouldn’t acquire Calvary.

“Why would the ACT government want a second public hospital when it can’t run its first? Why would the public have any trust in the ACT government running a second public hospital? It’s madness,” he said.

The archdiocese’s petition describes the takeover as “an abuse of property rights and religious freedom.”

The petitions lists four specific concerns:

  • the legislation was drafted and tabled without any consultation with Calvary Hospital, management, staff or patients,
  • the proposed timeframe demonstrates a complete unwillingness on the part of the ACT Government to dialogue with its citizens,
  • that the ACT government does not have the competency to run a second hospital, as it is already struggling to provide adequate services at the Canberra Hospital,
  •  that the government will target other faith, welfare and community groups without consultation.

Sign the petition by following this link.

Former Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott has also weighed in on the Calvary takeover, calling it “overbearing and arrogant.”

“What on earth is happening to our country when a perfectly well run hospital can be nationalised at whim without discussion and without any real notice?” he wrote on Twitter.

“Quite apart from being evidence of overbearing and arrogant government this looks like yet another assault on the Church.”

Updated: Calvary takeover ‘rammed’ through ACT legislative assembly

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