The state government is negotiating a contract with St John of God Health Care to operate the new Midland health campus, but the organisation's Catholic values mean that certain procedures won't be offered
Kim Snowball, executive director of the WA Health Department, says St John of God Health Care (SJOG) is the preferred tendered and negotiations with the organisation to run the new hospital (due to open in 2015) are in the final stages.
Mr Snowball said SJOG made it clear from the beginning that it could not provide some procedures, including abortion, sterilisation, or contraception.
"They were very clear with the department up-front that they would not be in a position to provide a number of services so we had a choice then as to whether to continue with contract negotiations."
"We made the judgement that we could provide those services in other hospitals."
"The vast majority of these are planned procedures so they can be referred to other services quite easily. They are a very small number; we're looking at it being 250 of the 29,000 patients we are expecting in the first year at the Midland health campus."
Martin Laverty, CEO of Catholic Health Australia, says that although it's new for WA, Catholic-run public hospitals have operated successfully for 190 years in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.
"Communities, clinicians and patients come to understand that Catholic hospitals do provide a range of excellent health care services, but we don't provide reproductive services," Mr Laverty says.
"We are quite clear that within Catholic hospitals there is not a position for Catholic services to provide reproductive services or advice."
"As the hospital is designed within its part of the West Australian health system that communities, clinicians and patients, as they have in the eastern states, will become aware of what the hospital can provide, and what it can't, because of its ethical framework."
Terry O'Gorman, president of the Australian Council of Civil Liberties, says that even if only 250 patients a year can't be treated at the Midland campus, a the secular principle in public services has been compromised.
"We think there's a strong argument based on the importance of separating church and state for public tax payer money not to be made available for Catholic and other religious organisations that will not carry out these services."
"But if public tax payer money is to be paid then the West Australian government must bite the bullet and make it a condition of any contract with St John of God or any other religious group that where a doctor or nurse cannot in conscience carry out an abortion or allied service they must be required to make an effective referral elsewhere."
"In emergency situations, it should be part of the contract that the rights of the patient come first."
Martin Laverty referred the ABC to the Catholic Health Australia website for detailed information on what treatments were excluded by Catholic teaching.
Included in the organisation's code of ethical standards is a direction that "Catholic facilities should not provide, or refer for, abortions."
Kim Snowball says that the Health department has "very clear protocols around when you refer to other services to ensure that safety, quality and access is preserved."
Martin Laverty says that in Catholic hospitals, "the rule that operates where a woman presents in an emergency situation where the mother's life is at risk is that clinicians must act to save lives. Catholic teaching says that there must be no support of abortion but the overriding guideline is that clinicians must act to save lives."
The Opposition's Health spokesman, Roger Cook, has called on the state government to abandon negotiations with SJOG.
"It's not good enough for the minister to impose, by proxy, particular religious views on what sort of services are provided at Midland Hospital," he said.
"This is the consequence of privatisation and it's a very poor outcome for the people of Midland and surrounding districts."
I think this is disgusting! What are your thoughts?