Canberra Calvary courts controversy over hospital purchase

The Little Company of Mary's Calvary Hospital, which is to take over the running of the John James Hospital in Canberra, is facing controversy over its plans to stop IVF procedures at the hospital.

The John James Memorial Hospital in Canberra has announced that Little Company of Mary (LCM) Health Care will take over its operations from 16 October, the Canberra Times reports.

However, some doctors and patients are unhappy because LCM as a Catholic hospital will refuse to allow in vitro fertilisation (IVF) procedures to take place at the hospital.

As a result, egg extractions for the ACT's two IVF clinics which are currently performed at John James will in the future take place at a nearby plastic surgery theatre.

Sydney IVF Canberra spokeswoman Devora Lieberman told the Times that the change had caused great stress.

"Clearly, they're women who are going through a potentially emotionally tumultuous time in the first place and then to have their treatment disrupted by having to move locations, that needs to be managed carefully," Dr Lieberman said.

The clinic performed about 300 egg-retrieval procedures annually involving about 250 women.

"I understand that there is only one private hospital in Canberra left that is not owned by the Catholic Church," Dr Lieberman said.

"I think that's challenging for women who would like to have permanent sterilisation."

There are 364 private hospital beds in the ACT - 50 per cent at John James, 26 per cent at National Capital and 24 per cent at Calvary.

Based on ethical objections, hospitals run by Catholic organisations do not provide IVF, pregnancy terminations and sterilisation procedures for men and women.

While ACT Health Minister Katy Gallagher declined to comment until the sale was confirmed, her Opposition counterpart, Brendan Smyth, has welcomed the decision by the Little Company of Mary to take over the running of the John James Memorial Hospital.

"I am pleased that the Little Company of Mary has been able to extend its activities in the ACT through having the capacity to take over the operations of the John James Memorial Hospital," Mr Smyth said.

"It would have been a very significant loss to the provision of hospital and other health care services to the ACT community if John James had been forced either to curtail its services or even close down."

After the completion of the sale, Little Company of Mary will own two of the three private hospitals or control 75 per cent of the private hospital beds in the ACT.

This has led some doctors to complain to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, the Times reports but after an informal review the consumer watchdog concluded the sale "would be unlikely to result in a substantial lessening of competition".

Calvary ensures future for John James Hospital (Media Release, 28/9/06)
John James to ban IVF (Canberra Times, 28/9/06)
No IVF cuts after takeover (The Australian 29/9/06)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
John James Memorial Hospital
Little Company of Mary Health Care
Little Company of Mary

29 Sep 2006