Calvary to fight ACT hospital take over bill in court

The Health Infrastructure Enabling Bill 2023 was passed with a two-thirds majority vote in ACT Parliament yesterday afternoon.

This paves the way for the ACT Government to compulsorily acquire Calvary Hospital in Bruce, and tears up the contract that would have seen Calvary run the hospital for another 76 years.

It will also allow the government to take ownership of the land, where it plans to build a new hospital.

A Calvary spokesperson said Calvary was “deeply disappointed” that the ACT Government’s Legislative Assembly has passed the bill.

On the eve of the Bill’s debate in parliament on Wednesday afternoon, Calvary shot a cannon over the bow of ACT Health when the group’s national chief executive, Martin Bowles, warned Calvary would mount a legal challenge if parliament did not adjourn the Bill.

He said a legal challenge was “the only response left available”.

Today Calvary, a not-for-profit healthcare company owned and run by the Catholic  Church, stood by its threat.

“As previously stated, Calvary intends to challenge the validity of the legislation. Calvary anticipates commencing such proceedings in the very near future,” a Calvary spokesperson said.

The bill was tabled at ACT parliament three weeks ago. At 1.30pm on Wednesday a list of 30 amendments was distributed and the fireworks began.

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith told parliament that amendments to the bill were “minor and technical in nature” and included responses to comments made by the parliamentary scrutiny committee which reviewed the bill.

Opposition Attorney-General, Jeremy Hanson, called for an adjournment, saying that the Health Infrastructure Enabling Bill was “one of the most significant, substantive pieces of legislation” that had “circumvented all due process”.

“You’ve done it in a matter of weeks, you’ve rammed it through committee and wouldn’t allow the committee to conduct an inquiry,” he said.

In reply, Ms Stephen-Smith said the bill was referred to the Standing Committee on Public Accounts which decided not to undertake an inquiry.

She defended amendments which widened the transition timeframe to ensure continued service delivery and the commercial protection for small to medium Canberra businesses that have contracts with Calvary Hospital.

“We have been advised by the Little Company of Mary (Calvary), that they are seeking to take this to the High Court,” Mr Hanson said.

The bill was passed 14 votes to seven.