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Doctors want Second Opinion on Notre Dame

Doctors at St Vincent's hospital are reportedly 'furious' over the August 1 announcement of the proposal to establish a medical school attached to the hospital by the Prime Minister, Cardinal Pell and Prof. Peter Tannock of Fremantle's Notre Dame University.

The establishment of St Vincent's as a teaching facility of Notre Dame will require the agreement of staff specialists, visiting medical officers and the State Government before it could proceed, according to an internal memo. It is reported that the doctors had met Prof Tannock on one occasion prior to the announcement being made, and no formal proposal addressing essential medical detail was put then or subsequently. In addition, St Vincent's is already a teaching hospital with a primary commitment to the medical students of the University of NSW.

According to sources, St Vincent's medical staff are angry at the lack of consultation on a matter that requires their cooperation: the 'teaching' component of a teaching hospital is to some degree a matter of the 'grace and favour' of staff specialists and VMOs. Teaching junior colleagues is a matter of medical tradition and ethics. The recent announcement by the Prime Minister that the medical school would 'appropriately operate with St Vincent's Hospital' has taken medical staff by surprise.

An internal memo obtained by Online Catholics from St Vincent's CEO Mary Foley, dated August 3, reads in part:

"You may have seen publicity on the weekend about proposals by Notre Dame University (based in Perth) to open a Sydney campus, including a medical school.

"At this stage, we have agreed that representatives of Notre Dame's Medical School in Perth and representatives of St Vincent's will meet to consider possibilities and options for a relationship between St Vincent's Campus and the new medical school.

"In agreeing to these discussions, we have stressed the importance of our relationship with the University of New South Wales and the primary teaching role of St Vincent's as a principal teaching hospital of UNSW's Medical School. We have also advised Notre Dame that any formal involvement of our public hospitals would require State Government approval and that our medical staff would also need to agree to participate."

In a related development, a Jesuit professor of Canon Law has confirmed that there is a potential conflict between canon law and civil law in the handing over of parish land in Sydney for use by Notre Dame University.

Prof. Geoffrey King of the United Faculty of Theology, Melbourne, wrote in these terms:

"I believe you have raised a real issue in the article "Canon Law may frustrate Notre Dame move". It is absolutely clear that a parish is a juridic person in canon law (canon 515#3) and hence it is capable of owning church property... whatever may be the actual arrangement in Sydney, the orientation of canon law is that a bishop cannot dispose of parish property at will."

A letter from the Archdiocese in this week's letters page says that the Cardinal is "fully aware of his canonical requirements". But the letter does not address the direct question put, which was: "who is the canonical owner of St Benedict's, Broadway and Sacred Heart, Darlinghurst?"

There appear to be a few further hurdles to overcome before the Sydney campus of Notre Dame University can become a reality.

See also:

  • Prime Minister announces Sydney Campus of Notre Dame
  • Cardinal Pell visits Notre Dame
  • Notre Dame welcomes support for Sydney Campus
  • Turf wars sours these holy gates

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