Former WA Health director-general Kim Snowball has defended himself against accusations he intentionally downplayed IT problems plaguing the construction of the state’s flagship Fiona Stanley Hospital.
The $2 billion facility will open to patients in October 2014, six months later than originally planned. Delays in the opening of the "paperless" hospital have been attributed to complex and unfinished IT.
Snowball, who retired suddenly in March this year, has been accused of misleading the health minister about progress on construction, and ignoring expert advice which suggested the IT fit-out was nine to 12 months behind schedule.
Last week he told a parliamentary committee convened to investigate the delays that he believed the hospital could be opened on time with the right resources.
“For my own part right through this period and to the day I left the role, I remained confident that Fiona Stanley Hospital could be delivered on time with strong project management and drive,” he said.
“I actually want to utterly refute the conspiracy theory or any assertion that I or my officers failed to inform government or central agencies of delays to the opening of Fiona Stanley Hospital prior to the last state election.”
He described a critical report outlining the delays as unreliable, which is why he asked the department’s own CIO Dr Andrew Roberston for second opinion.
“I had a not-for-distribution first draft report from someone who had been in the job for five weeks,” he recalled. “I did not ignore that report; but I absolutely had to validate it.”
“I was not gilding the lily,” he said.
The internal health report advised that with a partial IT roll-out – “not the full digital paperless hospital, but nonetheless on the path to that” – and some extra funding, doors would still be able to open by April 2014.
Committee members asked Snowball whether he accepted that subsequent events confirm that the first report was correct in spite of his doubts.
“On the day I left, I was still advising my minister that yes, we have got a risk with ICT and we have got other risks as well with Fiona Stanley Hospital, but I had no evidence to say we will be delayed,” he said.