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Thursday, 21 June 2012
Page: 7450


Dr SOUTHCOTT (Boothby) (11:22): Time is of the essence here, because it is only 10 days until the personally controlled electronic health record launches on 1 July. The amendments under discussion arise out of the Senate inquiry, which the opposition moved for, into the PCEHR legislation. The amendments are sensible, and the opposition does not oppose them. I have a few brief points to make on the PCEHR and the government's implementation of it.

Right from the beginning—from the first grand announcement by the member for Griffith, the then Prime Minister, about the personally controlled electronic health record—the government has struggled to meet its own deadlines. We are now 10 days from the launch of the PCEHR, and the parliament is still considering the important issues around governance, security and privacy in the legislation which is needed for the system to operate. We now know that the National Authentication System for Health, NASH, will not be ready for the launch on 1 July and that Medicare will be required to provide an interim system until the NASH is ready.

I understand that there has been some dispute about how much has been spent on the e-health record and NEHTA. On my figuring, though I am very happy for the minister to correct me if I am wrong, since 2010, $846.7 million has been allocated by the Commonwealth to NEHTA and the personally controlled electronic health record. This sum is made up of $467 million for the e-health record in the 2010 budget, a $109 million contribution to NEHTA which was part of the COAG agreement in 2010, $233.7 million in the 2012 budget, and $37 million in the most recent Tasmania bailout . When the contribution from the states, which is another $109 million, is included, almost $1 billion—$955.7 million—has been spent on NEHTA and the e-health record. Since almost $1 billion has been spent, we would expect to see something on 1 July; instead, we hear that the electronic health record will not allow electronic or online registration when it launches. So there is the farcical situation of an electronic health record which cannot be signed up to electronically.

Senate estimates recently heard that the GP practice management software will not be ready to interface with the electronic health record until September this year—that is, three months after the launch of the electronic health record on 1 July. It remains to be seen what will be available on 1 July—that is, in 10 days time—after almost $1 billion has been spent by state and Commonwealth governments on NEHTA and, more specifically, the electronic health record project. The opposition believes that the government should have listened to its own national e-health strategy, which recommended a gradual and incremental approach focused on building quick wins—such as electronic prescriptions, discharge summaries and pathology results—which practitioners and health professionals would find useful. The coalition would have tackled it that way.

We do not oppose the amendments, and we did not oppose the original legislation; however, we will be keeping a close watch on the continued roll-out of this $846.7 million of Commonwealth money on NEHTA and the e-health record.

Question agreed to.