Serci change is better for patients

Control of patient administration at Fiona Stanley Hospital was transferred from private contractor Serco to the Health Department to maximise patient confidentiality and clinical safety, a parliamentary hearing was told yesterday.

Hospital commissioning chief executive David Russell-Weisz and Department of Health director-general Bryant Stokes were asked by the Education and Health Standing Committee to explain why, more than 18 months after signing a $4.3 billion contract with Serco, they took over responsibility for the health information management system - which will cover records management, clinical coding, scheduling and billing.

Dr Russell-Weisz said unlike other parts of the contract, the system was not "locked down" when the contract was signed and had not been included in the budget.

"In my view, and Professor Stokes' view, it is a patient-facing service and for many reasons it would be better provided by the State," he said. A staff of about 14 had been working on the project for Serco until the decision was made. Dr Russell-Weisz said the bill for that work, due in the next fortnight, would be "minimal".

He said the department was now working to recruit about 265 full-time staff, at an estimated annual cost of $14 million to $18 million, to do the work. Most staff are expected to come from Fremantle and Royal Perth hospitals.

Professor Stokes told the hearing it made sense to include administration staff under the same umbrella as clinical staff, partly because of the nature of the information they dealt with.

"I was very concerned that unless we . . . did not have complete control of those people . . . then there could be a difficulty from time to time in things like scheduling, staff leave, those sorts of organisational things," he said.

Professor Stokes suggested that those who wrote the contract at the time "did not understand the nuances" of patient administration.

The committee's chairman, Liberal MP Graham Jacobs, said outside the hearing that it was clear the services had been removed from Serco's contract.

The West Australian

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