‘Significant’ number of midwives confirmed to have left former Calvary hospital since takeover as Senate bill to force an inquiry fails

‘Significant’ number of midwives confirmed to have left former Calvary hospital since takeover as Senate bill to force an inquiry fails
  • PublishedSeptember 13, 2023

The Canberra Liberals have raised concerns about the loss of midwives at Canberra’s second-largest hospital after the ACT government took over it.

For decades, the North Canberra Hospital, formerly known as Calvary hospital, was run by the Catholic organisation Calvary Health Care.

But the ACT government acquired it compulsorily in July, announcing plans to build a new $1 billion hospital on the site.

Since the takeover came into effect, 11 midwives have left, of whom 10 accepted redundancy packages.

Opposition health spokeswoman Leanne Castley said that was “11 too many”.

“The [union] told us in the nursing and midwifery inquiry that even one staff member leaving would have a massive impact on the unit,” she said.

Ms Castley acknowledged there was a national shortage of midwives, but said it was clear staff were “leaving the ACT”.

“The idea of taking over Calvary was to be able to spread the services, but obviously that hasn’t been working,” she said.

“What we’ve heard is the midwives are struggling … they’ve had enough and are exhausted.

“It’s important for the minister to look at all options and work out what needs to be done.”

Ms Castley said the Canberra Liberals were still developing the policies on midwifery and the health workforce that the party would take to the 2024 election.

Workforce losses are ‘substantial’: health minister

A woman with glasses looks close to the camera.
ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith says it is wrong to say each midwife who left did so because of the takeover.(ABC News: Matt Roberts)

Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith acknowledged the loss of 10 midwives was “significant”.

“That is a substantial impact, I’m absolutely not shying away from that,” she said.

But Ms Stephen-Smith said it was wrong to conclude that each midwife who had left the hospital did so because of the transition to government control.

“There were people who were also thinking: ‘Do I really want to keep doing this?’ and took the opportunity to leave during the transition period,” she said.

“This is an ongoing issue in the ACT and across the country … there is a shortage of midwives.”

Ms Stephen-Smith said Canberra Health Services had since recruited several agency midwives who were expected to stay in their roles in the long term.

Senate bid to force an inquiry into takeover fails

Matt Canavan clasps his hands in front of him as a media pack encircles, microphones outstretched
Queensland senator Matt Canavan wants to force the ACT government to hold an inquiry into its takeover.(ABC News: Ian Cutmore)

Meanwhile, a bill in federal parliament, which would have effectively forced the ACT to hold an inquiry into its takeover of the hospital, was defeated in the Senate today.

The proponent of the bill, Queensland LNP senator Matt Canavan, said that while he wanted to give ACT citizens more input into the decision, they would make their verdict known at the next ACT election.

“Eventually, the Canberra people will have their say on the behaviour of their own government,” Senator Canavan said.

ACT independent senator David Pocock agreed.


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