The State Government is yet to determine the cost to taxpayers of its decision to transfer patient administration services at Fiona Stanley Hospital from private contractor Serco to the Health Department.
At an Education and Health Standing Committee hearing today, hospital boss David Russell-Weisz and Department of Health director general Bryant Stokes said the decision to transfer responsibility for the health information management system was in the interests of patient confidentiality and clinical safety.
A team of about 12 Serco staff had worked on the project over the past 18 months, but the system will now be managed by the Health Department which will employ about 265 staff at a cost of between $14 - $18 million a year.
Dr Russell-Weisz said he expected a bill from Serco on the costs they had incurred on the project in the next two weeks, but said it would be “minimal.”
The pair said the two strands of the contract – covering health records management, clinical coding, scheduling and billing - were not “locked down” when the $4.3 billion contract with Serco was signed in July 2011.
Professor Stokes told the hearing it would be a smoother process to include all health information management staff under the one umbrella, and said perhaps those who wrote the contract at the time “did not understand the nuances” of the system.
Committee chair, former Government minister Graham Jacobs, said after the hearing it was clear the services were part of the contract with Serco.
“What we asked is what caused that to be extricated from the contract, what were the concerns there, and we were given the answer that they were concerned about patient confidentiality,” he said.
“We would have thought those patient confidentiality issues would have been resolved and certainly considered in the original contract. We’re talking about a contract that was signed in July 2011.”
He said it was disappointing the Department was yet to finalise the cost to taxpayers.
Outside the hearing, Professor Stokes said the variation to the contract was to ensure continuity of clinical care.
“This is not to say it wouldn’t have happened in the other way, but at least as a health manager, when you’ve got staff you know are your staff, you are able to work with them, particularly in a clinical setting,” he said.
“Because I’m an old fashioned person I suppose I wanted to have our staff working with the clinical area.”
Professor Stokes confirmed the hospital was set to open on October 4, with rehabilitation patients the first to be transferred.