10/04/2014 - 13:10

Dept ‘‘ignored’’ Fiona Stanley issues

10/04/2014 - 13:10

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The Department of Health failed to properly assess its ability to commission Fiona Stanley Hospital on time prior to signing a $4.3 billion facilities management contract with Serco, according to a report by a parliamentary committee.

The Department of Health failed to properly assess its ability to meet its deadline for commissioning Fiona Stanley Hospital prior to signing a $4.3 billion facilities management contract with Serco, according to a parliamentary committee report.

The report by the legislative assembly's education and health standing committee found that the department's failure to address problems with the commissioning of the hospital had cost taxpayers at least $330 million.

That figure includes additional payments to Serco under the terms of its contract with the government and new funding required to complete the project.

Fiona Stanley Hospital is now due to open in October this year, six months behind its original deadline, primarily due to issues with the hospital's information and communications technology systems.

The costs to taxpayers could have been mitigated if Serco had been informed of changes to the scope and timeframe of the project earlier, the committee found.

"It is clear from the evidence that no formal assessment of the department's ability to meet the April 2014 deadline was carried out prior to signing the contract with Serco," the report says.

"This was a serious oversight, and the failure to carry out this assessment has cost the people of Western Australia a significant sum of money."

The standing committee is made up of three Liberal MPs, including chair Graham Jacobs, and two Labor MPs.

It found that the department's former director-general, Kim Snowball, appeared to be wedded to the scheduled opening date, despite receiving advice that this was no longer possible.

The committee meanwhile said it did not believe that Health Minister Kim Hames had adequately satisfied himself that the obligations of the government's contract with Serco were being met.

It slammed the department's governance and reporting practices, saying that an independent taskforce appointed to scrutinise delivery of the hospital had been compromised by Dr Snowball serving as its chair.

Members of the taskforce had been kept in the dark regarding key documents relating to the status of the project, with members reporting they were only made aware of the likelihood of delays after Dr Snowball departed from the role of director-general.

The project was originally envisaged as a paperless hospital, with extensive reliance on electronic patient and medical records, but the plan was quickly abandoned once it became apparent that its implementation would cause years of delays beyond the hospital's scheduled opening date.

The department had also intended to transition Fiona Stanley Hospital to a full tertiary hospital within one month of opening its doors - a plan the committee said was unprecedented for a hospital of that size and unrealistic to ensure patient safety.

Dr Snowball later acknowledged that "no-one in their right mind would believe" that the hospital could have been operating at full capacity by April this year, according to the report.

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