Anthony Albanese backs Calvary Hospital takeover two days before laws set to pass

“The ACT government are expanding their public hospital service delivery and restructuring healthcare provision as a result,” he told The Canberra Times in a short statement.

The prime minister also disagreed with claims from senior Catholic clergy, including Archbishops Christopher Prowse of Canberra, Anthony Fisher OP of Sydney, and Julian Porteous of Hobart, along with the opposition leader, Peter Dutton, that the decision should worry non-government and faith-based service providers.

“It is not seen as providing any precedent by the ACT government and should not be by anyone else,” the prime minister said.

Australian Medical Association ACT branch president, Dr Walter Abhayaratna, wrote in a recent letter to the ACT health minister, Rachel Stephen-Smith, that the takeover sets a “terrible precedent” and that senior doctors felt disrespected, shocked, dismayed and angry at the rapid takeover.

Legislation to compulsorily acquire the hospital and land was introduced into the ACT Legislative Assembly on 10 May, and will likely be passed by the Labor-Greens majority government this Wednesday, on 31 May.

The takeover of the hospital has been slated for completion in early July, with ACT Government figures saying speed was of the essence to ensure an orderly transition to the government-run health network.

Despite insisting the takeover was not prompted by the hospital’s Catholic ethos, the takeover came less than a month after a scathing ACT Government inquiry into reproductive choice that described Calvary as “problematic … due to an overriding religious ethos” due to its non-provision of elective terminations.

Current and former ACT and federal Liberal Party politicians have lined up to slam the decision, most recently former defence minister Kevin Andrews, who wrote in The Spectator that, “The belief that this proposal is about abortion and euthanasia, which the ACT plans to introduce, is well-founded.”

“Is the next institution to be acquired Clare Holland House, the praised palliative care service also operated by Calvary?” he asked.

While Mr Albanese supports the decision, federal Labor MP for Bean David Smith has raised concerns about the decision.

“My concern is with change of this nature it’s just critical to ensure you consult all the relevant stakeholders but particularly the workforce,” he said on 20 May.

“We know there’s been a significant impact on the workforce through COVID and what we don’t want to see is further unintended consequences by a lack of certainty.”