Wednesday, October 24, 2018
This Has To Be One Of The Biggest Digital Health Stuff-Ups In A Good While.
News of a new Auditor General Report broke last week on the Telstra Health Cancer Registry debacle. There is lots of coverage. Here are two of the better ones.
The Department of Health should consider terminating its AU$220 million contract with Telstra Health over delivering the long-delayed national cancer screening registers, the joint audit committee has recommended.
A joint audit committee has suggested that delays in delivering cervical and bowel cancer screening registers by Telstra Health could result in a termination of the AU$220 million contract, or with penalties to be paid by the provider.
In Report 472: Commonwealth Procurement -- Second Report Inquiry based on Auditor-General's reports 9 and 12 (2017-18) and 61 (2016-17) [PDF], published on Thursday, the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit made several recommendations to the Department of Health.
These included reporting to the committee on whether due to the "serious underperformance by Telstra Health" the Commonwealth should terminate the contract and "pursue other options for either or both registers", which were meant to be delivered by May 1, 2017, and March 20, 2017.
"If Health is of the view that this is not the best course of action, then the committee requests advice as to penalties the Commonwealth could consider seeking from Telstra Health, given the significant extra costs incurred as a result of this delay, and what advice Health has sought regarding these issues," it added.
The committee also recommended that the Department of Health provide six-monthly progress reports until both cancer screening registers are operational or the contract has been terminated.
"The reports should be comprehensive and outline progress, cost impacts, risks, and benefits, including changes in participation rates and expected implementation dates," the committee explained.
The Department of Health was also told to provide the committee with clearer information on the objectives of the National Cervical Cancer Screening Register and the National Bowel Cancer Screening Register, as opposed to the objectives of the overall national cancer screening program as a whole.
"Noting that achieving value for money is expected to be a central consideration of Commonwealth procurement activities, the committee recommends that the Department of Health report back with details of how it is proactively managing the National Cancer Screening Register (NCSR) contract and monitoring progress to ensure that value for money is achieved in the establishment of the NCSR, including: Details of any savings achieved from NCSR operations and/or any additional costs to the Budget; [and] whether the process of providing NCSR Medicare data to Telstra has concluded, and whether that data is complete and reliable," another recommendation said.
As a broader suggestion, the committee said Health should "significantly improve its consideration of risk during future procurement planning".
The department had told the committee in March that its NCSR for bowel cancer, being delivered by Telstra, will not be operational until late calendar 2019.
Speaking before a public hearing of the Joint Committee of Public Accounts and Audit, Department of Health National Cancer Screening Taskforce First Assistant Secretary Bettina Konti had said the department and Telstra were continuing to focus on delivering the cervical cancer screening register.
"All our focus is on ensuring that we can complete the National Cancer Screening Register to support cervical screening, and for that reason we and Telstra Health have moved our resources into that in order to ensure that occurs. Once that is implemented and stable, the planning will recommence for bowel cancer transition," Konti said at the time.
"It's a shift in date."
However, while late 2019 is the goal, Konti admitted that "there isn't a target date" for the bowel cancer screening register.
You can read the rest about the saga here:
Other good coverage is here:
Sue Dunlevy, National health correspondent, News Corp Australia Network
October 18, 2018 6:31pm
THE extended delay in rolling out a new cervical cancer register has seen a Senate committee raise questions about whether up to 80 cancer cases may have gone undetected.
A unanimous Senate inquiry into the scandal has slammed the performance of cancer screening register Telstra Health, and asked the government to consider cancelling its $220 million contract with the company citing serious under performance in delivering the vital scheme.
It comes after an Auditor General’s investigation found evidence senior health department officials involved in the decision to award the contract failed to declare their Telstra shares as a potential conflict of interest.
The Senate inquiry found the tender evaluation process was so flawed the department could not rule out the possibility that Telstra Health may not have even won the contract if the department had followed its own tender evaluation plan.
More than 18 months after it was meant to begin the new cervical cancer register, it is still not fully operational and still relies on the old state and territory government system for key functions, the Senate found.
The new national bowel cancer screening register was meant to start in March 2017 but more than a year down the track the Department of Health still can’t provide a start date for the register.
It is not clear whether Telstra Health has paid any financial penalties for their under performance.
Lots more here:
This really has to be a first order stuff-up with as far as I can see no clear cut explanation(s) of what went wrong and why. As usual we have finger pointing between the parties but what is really needed at this point is a forensic examination of the project from go to whoa by domain experts so as many lessons as possible can be learnt…
Additionally we need replacement systems in place to minimize any health consequences for patients from these technical failures. It is quite something to see recommendations for consideration of contract termination!
Comments from those who were / are involved would be interesting….
Posted by Dr David G More MB PhD at Wednesday, October 24, 2018