Publication Date 01/07/2014         Volume. 6 No. 6   
Information to Pharmacists

Editorial

From the desk of the editor

Welcome to the July 2014 homepage edition of i2P (Information to Pharmacists) E-Magazine.
At the commencement of 2014 i2P focused on the need for the entire profession of pharmacy and its associated industry supports to undergo a renewal and regeneration.
We are now half-way through this year and it is quite apparent that pharmacy leaders do not yet have a cohesive and clear sense of direction.
Maybe the new initiative by Woolworths to deliver clinical service through young pharmacists and nurses may sharpen their focus.
If not, community pharmacy can look forward to losing a substantial and profitable market share of the clinical services market.
Who would you blame when that happens?
But I have to admit there is some effort, even though the results are but meagre.
In this edition of i2P we focus on the need for research about community pharmacy, the lack of activity from practicing pharmacists and when some research is delivered, a disconnect appears in its interpretation and implementation.

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The IT Can of Worms in NSW

Neil Johnston

articles by this author...

Neil Johnston is a pharmacist who trained as a management consultant. He was the first consultant to service the pharmacy profession and commenced practice as a full time consultant in 1972, specialising in community pharmacy management, pharmacy systems, preventive medicine and the marketing of professional services. He has owned, or part-owned a total of six pharmacies during his career, and for a decade spent time both as a clinical pharmacist and Chief Pharmacist in the public hospital system. He has been editor of i2P since 2000.

When a simple business transaction does not seem to make sense, one is led to speculate on the agenda  behind that transaction.
An observation I have noted from personal experience is that the presence of a major Australian IT system within a public hospital environment, is almost non-existent.
This does not make sense.
There are many excellent Australian IT companies.

However, you tend to find only global brands in NSW hospitals, with the following characteristics:

* They are very expensive

* They do not integrate with other hospital systems

* They break down frequently, often necessitating the placement of a vendor company project manager within the hospital system, to cope with the breakdowns.

Australian companies are commonly told that they will not have the resources to develop their version of a needed hospital system and that they should partner or make a strategic arrangement with one of the existing global vendors already contracted to the hospital system, to overcome the problem.
Even when it can be demonstrated that coupling with a global vendor is not necessary, and that adequate resources exist to develop the Australian system, the arguments fall on deaf ears.
Forming a strategic relationship with a global vendor can be a daunting process and can ultimately lead to the Australian component being strangled or disenfranchised in a major capacity.

I recently came across an innovative Australian IT company that had developed an asset management and tracking system suitable for a hospital environment.

The company is located in the small north-coast town of Red Rock, which is found not far from the regional city of Grafton, in NSW.
In nearby Coffs Harbour, NSW Health had built a new hospital and had decided to dispose its old hospital and contents.
The building and a range of assets were sold to a developer.
A local company called In The Shed Asset Management (ITSAM) Pty Ltd, decided to purchase some of the surplus assets from the developer and negotiated a good buying price.
The entrepreneurial CEO of the company, Phil Clare, immediately set about finding a market for his purchases and was surprised to find he had a ready customer in very space where he had made the original transaction in NSW Health.
Their regional hospitals, including Coffs Harbour Hospital were eager customers.

Phil scratched his head in wonderment at this discovery, because it was evident that NSW Health did not have any viable form of asset management, and that the head of the organisation had no idea what was happening at its tail end.
Being a good entrepreneur, he quickly scoped an asset management and tracking system that was “state-of-the-art”, and took it to the senior management of NSW Health.

After a thorough briefing, NSW Health developed a tender for a pilot project that involved tracking assets, disposing of obsolete assets and the general cleaning up of facilities that had fallen into disuse as their spaces became overgrown with records, chemicals, equipment – all the miscellanea that accumulated from within the various hospital labyrinths. The wastage of space was considerable.

Some of the items stored, and the manner in which they were stored, had the alleged capacity to embarrass NSW Health and the NSW State Government in the areas of waste and non-compliance.

After many pilots ITSAM submitted a tender and won it, simply because it was the only tender.
The rest of the field did not seem to have an interest in this obscure hospital problem.

After being awarded the contract, ITSAM set about honouring its contract.
Given the position that government hospitals hold in the general scheme of the health system, this was an important contract for ITSAM and they were determined to do an efficient and thorough job.
They naturally wanted to keep renewing the contract and use it as a referral point to gain future contracts, so they gave it their all.

The work was performed between 2006 and 2008 for the Northern Sydney Central Coast Area Health Service. The work was documented and meticulously reported on. The quality of reportage moved hospital management to write an unsolicited commendation for the manner in which ITSAM carried out its work.

All appeared to be progressing well.
The contract was renewed and other area health services became interested as well. That is, until ITSAM attempted to claim payments for work completed under its contract.
The contract for a second renewal was then abruptly cancelled despite prior verbal assurances (how dare he ask for his money!).
He also alleged he was verbally threatened to be buried in paper work and legal action if he attempted his own legal action.
NSW Health had managed to drag out their contracted terms of payment (45 days) to up to six years.
Only a fraction of the total account has been paid since contracting with NSW Health and Phil Clare has had to renegotiate that under a separate Deed of Agreement.

The new year of 2011 was the point where Phil Clare decided to declare war on NSW Health.
He sent out  the latest round of invoices/statements to the eight area health services and a ninth
straight to NSWHealth.

Phil states: "I have heard staff were receiving warnings from their superiors to avoid contact with Intheshed. Last time we were bullied they threatened that they would bury us in legal issues.
They certainly followed up on that,” he said.
“(NSWMinister for Health) Carmel Tebbutt told Parliament that no payments to government contractors
extend beyond 45 days,” he said.
“We sent out the latest batch of invoices on December 29 2010 – more than 45 days ago.
“Plus Tebbutt met with local member Steve Cansdell about this and assured him that (NSW) Health would fast-track our stuff.”

The government background to this dispute makes fascinating reading.
Recently, one of Carmel Tebutt's senior advisers was sacked for being in possession of prohibited drugs. His trial is set down until after the looming NSW state elections.

He was replaced by Scott Gartrell, a person who was previously a lobbyist and was instrumental in assisting a company called Infrashore, the consortium in charge of the $1 billion Royal North Shore Hospital redevelopment.
This is the major hospital that ITSAM was involved with under its contract with NSW Health.

Years earlier (1997) Scott Gartrell worked for Thiess, a major shareholder in Infrashore.
Late in January 2011 he deserted Carmel Tebbutt  to head up Infrashore and is therefore seen to be dealing with his old department.
Jillian Skinner, the current opposition spokeswoman, immediately reported the event with the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
The story is best told in the National Times article dated January 30 2011.

The point to this background is that a major global IT vendor in association with Infrashore, has recently become interested in asset management and tracking and has developed software to be used in NSW Health environment.
Remember, when Phil Clare tendered for this service, no other vendor submitted a tender.
I think that the commercial-in-confidence implications as well as the lack of arms-length dealing would be obvious. You have a serious "can of worms".
It will be interesting to see how effective ICAC is after the March election for the state government of NSW.

Obviously, all these dealings did not sit comfortably with ITSAM which is still waiting for its money after a total of six years and which now tallies at $2.7 million.
This is serious stuff for a small business that has now had to put off staff and cancel expansion plans.

In an attempty to pressure the NSW State Government to honour its legal contractual obligations, Phil Clare has begun to talk to various media, including the local Grafton Examiner, the Sydney Morning Herald and i2P.
In addition, a website has been set up along the lines of the now famous "Wikileaks", whose founder, Julian Assange, coincidentally hails from the Norther Rivers Area of NSW - the same as Phil Clare.
It is obvious now that Wikileaks looks like it should have made an appearance decades ago, to counter corrupt public processes, that continually hide just under the radar

Phil Clare is encouraging anyone who has not been paid by the NSW Government to post their details with him, so that pressure can be maintained for mutual benefit.
You can find the site at http://haveyoubeenpaidyet.com.au/.

No individual details have been posted as yet, but they have been flowing in.
It is also obvious to i2P that the recent departures of NSW Labour MP's in large numbers will have something to do with their insider knowledge of the "rotten core" of this current state government.

Meanwhile, Phil Clare is expected to support his family, run a small business, be an upright citizen, pay his state taxes and do everything that is expected of him by a state government that runs to a different set of rules, and simply rips him off.

This disgusts me absolutely, and when you know that the debacle that is e-health generally and the $'s billions that have been wasted nationally and derailed Australian IT enterprise, you know that the heart must be cut out of the body of this corrupt exercise.

It is also obvious that Victoria has woken up through the following media report:

The Age Monday 21st February 2011

Last rites for health IT system

Kate Hagan

February 21, 2011

HEALTH Department staff fear Victoria's $360 million health technology program is being shut down after being told that no contracts will be renewed for people working on it.

The same medicine will have to be applied in NSW and other Labour states, and certainly a review at the federal level to stop this deplorable wastage at taxpayer expense.

Public hospitals should be a crucible for Australian research, invention and creativity.
Dealing with decent Australian IT companies might just encourage consortiums strong enough to deliver a world-class e-health system if the obstructions can be excised from government bureaucracy and its political masters.

Maybe Victoria has flagged a national "winds of change".

Return to home

Submitted by chris wright on Fri, 04/03/2011 - 17:39.

To the casual observer with a balanced view, it is difficult to come to the conclusion that Phil Clare has not been seriously wronged.
Equally, if the "other party" was anybody on the Planet other than the NSW Labor Party or Tony Soprano it may not be such a "Lay Down Misere" and therefore perhaps debatable.
Actually, I doubt that not even Tony Soprano would pull a stunt like this.
My advice to NSW Health is to;
"Get real, or get done".
Hmmm, I wonder who is culpable here, the bureaucrats or the politicians?

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