Leaders of the Catholic church have made a blistering attack on the way the ACT government decided to take over Calvary Public Hospital Bruce.
Archbishop Christopher Prowse said he was "totally stunned and shocked" by the decision "which came without warning or discussion".
He had only learnt of the decision on Tuesday.
"We are utterly astounded," the archbishop said. "There has been no formal contact with the Archdiocese, nor has any reason been given.
"The lack of transparency of the ACT government raises several questions and concerns. It is a very sad day when governments can simply decide to mount a takeover of any enterprise they like without any justification."
There had been "a lack of courtesy", the Vicar-General of the Archdiocese of Canberra and Goulburn Father Richard Thompson said.
"It also opens up the question that all ACT institutions are now open to compulsory acquisition," he added.
Leaders of the church condemned the ACT government's process, which they believe opens the way for other institutions to be nationalised.
And Catholic Health Australia, which represents the country's largest non-government grouping of hospitals, expressed "deep concern about the ACT government's abrupt and unprecedented decision to compulsorily acquire the Calvary Public Hospital Bruce".
"Catholic hospitals have been caring for and healing Australians for 170 years and have long enjoyed a constructive and cooperative relationship with all Australian governments," Catholic Health Australia's chairman John Watkins said.
"This abrupt decision by the ACT government is a worrying rejection of a system that has served millions and millions of Australians well.
"Our immediate concern lies with the 1800 employees at the hospital who have not been consulted about the potential ramifications of this decision. But longer term this is a disturbing precedent for any government to set."
In terms of the local reaction, the Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn planned to meet representatives of the Catholic organisation which runs the hospital on Thursday in an attempt to find out more.
"He has very little information on this. It has come as a surprise," Father Richard, the Vicar-General (who is the number two in the archdiocese after the archbishop), said.
The public hospital in Bruce which opened in May 1979 is not owned by the church. It is crown land leased for 99 years by the ACT government to the Catholic Sisters of the Little Company of Mary which runs the hospital. There are 47 years of the lease still to run, with the strong expectation that it would be renewed when it is due to end in 2070.
The hospital is open to all and performs medical procedures according to its contract. These do not include some specialist treatments.
Nor does it include abortion which the Catholic church fundamentally opposes. The church is also fundamentally opposed to euthanasia (or voluntary assisted dying, as it's also called).
The leadership of the church is not making comment on either of these two issues in relation to the takeover of Calvary.
Some close to the archbishop believe, though, that the timing of the takeover is "interesting" because of the current controversy about euthanasia in the ACT.
When the ACT government attempted to takeover Calvary 15 years ago, the deal fell through at the last moment. Agreement in principle had been reached but the issue went up the Catholic hierarchy as far as the Vatican, which then didn't approve it.
Critics of the transaction at the time argued that the Little Company of Mary was not entitled to compensation if it surrendered or terminated its lease before it ended in 2070.
But advice from the ACT government solicitor said unless the Little Company of Mary waived its right to compensation, it was entitled to payment for prematurely giving up its rights to the land and assets.
The matter hasn't got to that stage this time, largely because the Catholic church in Canberra and Goulburn was not informed.
The ACT government hasn't provided figures this time. It has said only that compensation will be paid and that the acquisition will be done under "just terms". The government will not provide an estimate but said it would be acquired at market value.
What the market value might be is unclear.
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