Page 5093 - Week 14 - Tuesday, 17 November 2009
MR HANSON: Certainly. Minister, can you confirm Tom Brennan’s claim that it was in fact the government that initiated discussions on the proposal to sell Clare Holland House?
MS GALLAGHER: Yes, I do not think it is any secret in this place that it was the government that approached Little Company of Mary around the proposal. Discussions have been had over a number of years around the relationship between Little Company of Mary Health Care and the ACT government. It really started under Minister Corbell, and it continued under me in relation to a proposal that came through the 2006 budget that we should remove ourselves entirely from our contractual arrangements with Calvary Public Hospital and allow Little Company of Mary much more freedom to operate the public hospital. Through that discussion, there have always been two sides. There has been the public hospital operations and there has been the palliative care operations.
I understood, when I approached Little Company of Mary Health Care around the desire of the government to purchase the hospital, that it was never our intention to remove them from their role in palliative care. That was not part of the original discussion, and I do not think that is any secret. The discussion has always focused on, and the point is about, whether Clare Holland House was a bargaining chip. It was never a bargaining chip. It was there from the beginning. Little Company of Mary have been operating the palliative care services on behalf of the territory since, I think, 1994—since 2001 at the hospice site. They, of course, have that longstanding relationship at the hospital, going back more than 40 years.
With respect to the comments that the Chief Minister has made—indeed, I have made them as well in meetings that I have had with the Palliative Care Society—the fact is that, through the consultation process, concerns have been raised, to the point that we have all reflected on the role of Clare Holland House in this proposal. I have approached Little Company of Mary myself and asked them whether they would consider the proposal being separated, as part of an outcome of the consultation process. That is really in response to the concerns of the Palliative Care Society, who came to us originally with nine areas of concern that we have all addressed, and ticked next to each box. They have subsequently come up with their additional and final concern about not having a lease that is owned by Little Company of Mary. And it was in that context that those representations were made. But, as parties do in negotiation processes, there is to and fro.
The government remains committed to the proposal as it stands, and LCM have indicated a number of times that they are not prepared to not have a role in public health care in the ACT. I think it is a little ironic that the opposition, who are refusing to allow Little Company of Mary to withdraw their services from the hospital, are also refusing to allow them to consolidate at the hospice. I think it is a very odd argument to run. They are good enough to own and operate the hospital but they are not good enough to own and operate the hospice.
MR SPEAKER: Mr Hanson, a supplementary question?