My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Health and the action I seek is for him to ensure local hospitals aren’t being forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on unnecessary processes because of the department’s one-size-fits-all policies.
Portland District Health was recently forced to spend $750 000 when seeking a new pathology contract because of these policies.
The board was aware the contract South West Healthcare had entered with a pathology provider had an option to add another public health service.
It made perfect sense—it was an established contract that would have retained laboratory services in the local area and it further enhanced cooperation between health services.
The board knew that this would be the best option for them and requested that they be allowed to take this option. But HealthShare Victoria and the Department of Health and Human Services advised they needed to ‘test the market’.
Again, the board pointed out there were only two potential options—one of those being the provider servicing South West Healthcare—and that a tender process would be costly. But the department insisted.
As predicted, there were no suitable respondents and the board then had to engage a probity expert to convince HealthShare Victoria that the tenders had been reviewed and responded to appropriately.
$750 000 and countless weeks later, the board was advised it could indeed join the South West Healthcare contract–exactly what they had proposed.
I absolutely understand the need to ensure taxpayers are getting good value for money and the need for open tender processes—I absolutely understand that and am not questioning that at all.
But this is a situation where there are a limited number of pathology providers servicing regional areas and a great option on the table that involved an existing contract and increased service sharing between two health services.
There needs to be some flexibility so that the process aimed at making sure taxpayers are getting good value for money doesn’t end up costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars. There is still a way to transparently do this without spending $750 000.
Imagine what that $750 000 could have been used for—it could have employed more doctors and nurses, it could have helped purchase vital equipment or to provide services—but it was wasted in processes that everyone knew and advised would not be fruitful.
What’s even more appalling about this is that the department has then had the gall to accuse the hospital board of poor financial control—when in fact it is their one-size-fits-all processes that are forcing them to spend money that didn’t need to be spent—and this is just one example.
Given the minister has now appointed six people to the nine-person board of Portland District Health who have no connection to the Portland community, I am deeply concerned that more and more of this type of waste will happen—because when making decisions like this about a unique local health service like Portland District Health, local knowledge is vital.
Minister, these one-size-fits-all purchasing policies just don’t work–the department needs to allow for some flexibility and they need to listen to the advice of local people who know what will work best for them and their health service.