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Outcry in ACT over Calvary takeover


Canberra-Goulburn Archbishop Christopher Prowse has described as “draconian” legislation passed by the ACT Legislative Assembly giving the government the power to forcibly acquire Calvary Public Hospital.

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The Health Infrastructure Enabling Bill was passed on Wednesday May 31.

Archbishop Prowse said the bill had been enacted without regard or respect for staff, patients or the citizens of Canberra.

“The government exempted this Act from the oversight of other ACT Acts and avoided the scrutiny of a public inquiry,” he said.

“I want to assure the staff of Calvary that I stand with them and will continue to seek that their voices be heard, and their concerns understood.

“This compulsory acquisition places all Canberrans in uncertainty.”

Calvary has indicated it will take legal action on the grounds it is an “invalid piece of legislation”.

Daily Voice, the online publication of the Canberra-Goulburn Archdiocese, reported that the Bill was the subject of fierce debate in parliament, with acting Opposition leader Jeremy Hanson saying the Canberra Liberals opposed the “disruptive bill” in every possible way.

“We oppose it on health grounds, we oppose it legally and we oppose it ethically,” he said.

“This bill tramples over staff, it tramples over trust and tramples over our democratic principles and over common sense.”

Mr Hanson said the petition against the takeover, which currently has more than 33,000 signatures, was being ignored.

“It is impossible not to conclude that there is an element that involves an attack on faith,” he said.

“Whether Mr Barr denies it or not, that is how the people of many faiths are feeling.”

Chief Minister Andrew Barr said the acquisition was essential, with the northside of Canberra projected to grow by at least another 200,000 people by 2060.

The government plans to allocate more than $1 billion towards a new hospital in Bruce at the existing Calvary site, with construction to start as soon as 2025.

Head of the Save Calvary Taskforce Fr Tony Percy, however, said the motivation for the takeover is clearly not financial.

“The Calvary system built a hospital, a beautiful new private hospital in Adelaide with 342 beds for $350 million, and the government said they’re going to build a hospital here for a billion,” he said.

“It’ll be more than that. So, they’ll be far better off saving $500 million by letting Calvary build the hospital and spend half a billion dollars on other services in Canberra. I bet that would be a welcome decision.”

On Tuesday, Calvary chief executive Martin Bowles said Calvary would seek an injunction in either the Federal or High Court.

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