A Mistake in trying to make National Health Care more Efficient costs Queensland Health $1.2 Billion

Posted by PITHOCRATES - September 9th, 2012

Week in Review

The hospitals in Australia are part of their national health care system.  So the government runs them.   And pays their doctors and nurses.  Which requires a sophisticated payroll system.  And a good contractor to install it (see Queensland Health axes over 2,700 jobs by Emma Sykes and ABC News Resources posted 9/7/2012 on ABC Brisbane).

Queensland Health employees were notified this morning by Mr Springborg that a total of 2,754 jobs would be cut, reducing the number of full-time equivalent staff in Queensland Health to just over 66,000…

In a news conference Mr Springborg said the cuts were a hangover from the troubled payroll system.

“Thanks to the previous government, this is year one in a five-year program of unfunded payroll costs,” he said.

And what was the troubled payroll system?  Well, the federal government was updating their payroll system throughout Australia to make things better and more efficient.  And they started with Queensland Health’s 70,000 or so employees.  Just as a trial run.  To make sure it would be as great and wonderful as they thought it would be.  Here’s a short excerpt from an APP story from July of 2012 (see Payroll disaster may have been worse: govt by APP posted 7/13/2012 on Yahoo! 7News Queensland).

Since the flawed system was introduced in March 2010 thousands of staff have been underpaid, overpaid, or not paid at all.

The debacle is set to cost the state an estimated $1.2 billion to run and fix by 2017.

Queensland Health spent about $10.5 billion in 2010 (see page 190 in their 2010 annual report).  So this payroll problem is 11.4% of the health care budget.  It is incomprehensible how a fix to a computer system in the payroll department can cost 11.4% of Queensland Health’s total budget.  But it will.  And now someone has to pay the bill for that fix.  The employees of Queensland Health.  And their patients.  Through staff cuts.  Which will increase the rationing of services.  And wait times.  All because of a government’s plan to increase the efficiency by centralizing business operations.

One of the selling points of Obamacare was all the money it was going to save by making health care more efficient.  By centralizing health care operations.  Beginning with computerizing health care records.  And then the ultimate goal of Obamacare.  An efficient single-payer system.  Which will require some serious computer programming.  Lots of hardware.  And a lot of personal information on line.  In a country with about 14 times the population of Australia.  So what happened in Queensland can happen in the US.  And it can be a whole lot worse.

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