Western Australia's health minister has attempted to deflect blame for expensive IT delays to the state's Fiona Stanley Hospital, claiming the previous government wasted significantly more money on its now-defunct shared services scheme.
In a heated session of parliament this week, health minister Kim Hames responded to the WA Labor opposition's attempts to pin the blame for mismanagement of the hospital build to the government by claiming he "could have built another hospital" with the $1 billion he claims its shared service scheme will end up costing the state.
The previous state Labor government’s centralised shared services program was cancelled in 2011 after it became apparent that promised savings were failing to eventuate. In the years since, agencies have paid millions to transition out of the arrangement.
“The fact is that there is some delay and that has a cost. Compare that with the Office of Shared Services’ $1 billion loss, that is like building a children’s hospital and then burning it down,” Hames told parliament yesterday.
The minister also denied claims made by under-treasurer Tim Marney last week that insufficient time had been given to scrutinise hospital construction contracts.
“I can say that Treasury people were involved in that contract all along the way; in fact, a person contracted to the Department of Treasury was on the organising committee the whole time," he said.
“The under-treasurer was, to use his words, ‘pissed off’ in the end with the time he had to look at the final contract, but I can tell members that a few people in health might have been ‘pissed off’ with him as well, in terms of how a very detailed and complex contract was worked through with Treasury."
Hames did concede that the government had underestimated how long it would take to fully kit out the new hospital with state-of-the-art IT systems.
“It is our fault – we set a time that only gave us three months to go from a construction site to the opening of the hospital. It was not enough," he said.
“The other problem we had was with health information technology. Health IT was not able to get together all the programs we needed to get the hospital open."