Pyne’s Boys Club
The high water mark to date of Turnbull’s Prime Ministership was his speech where he committed to place innovation at the centre of the Government Agenda. Australia needs innovation to drive increased productivity and economic growth.
One third of all Government expenditure relates to Health and readily available and practical changes in this space can amount to 10’s of Billions in savings to the Australian taxpayer.
The possibilities outlined by Turnbull of taking Australia from third world in its support of innovation to a world leader, was widely heralded particularly in Health. Last year the State and Federal Governments spent over 192 Billion on Health and 10’s of Billions of that monies was wasted.
To date the Federal Government’s highly promoted My Health Records has cost Australian taxpayers over 1 Billion dollars and 99% of Doctors cannot use it. Major international technology company CSC has warned Doctors not to use the My Health Record because of a glitch that meant data for one patient “may be saved against an incorrect patient record”. To force patronage of the unusable platform the Government is now paying Doctors to upload shared health summaries of five patient records every quarter in return for an incentive payment worth $50,000 a year. In business terms it is the equivalent of Apple making such a poor iPhone that Apple pay you to use their iPhone. Besides being nice would you invest in Apple management if they ran the company that way?
The Royal Adelaide Hospital (RAH) has spent 400 Million plus on its ‘own’ IT platform which has a US social security number element hard coded into it. The US social security number requirement cannot be changed. Independent experts were retained and informed the Government of 7 minimum mandatory requirements for the RAH platform. The Government purchased a platform that met 4 requirements. The RAH platform when politically expedient will be scrapped entirely.
The current Federal government refuses simple online technologies to improve patient care for the chronically ill. Rather chronically ill patients are required to travel from rural destinations to the Hospital often for a five minute review and check up. The stubbornness of the Government to embrace secure basic 21st technologies and improve patient care is perplexing to Health professionals.
Increased spend on Health to woo voters is the standard solution proffered during election campaigns but is not the solution for better patient care or for an improved Health system. Some voters maybe fooled with empty rhetoric but without fundamental changes to the Health system the illusion of improving patient care and Health outcomes is at best only a mirage.
Technology know how and ability to improve patient care exists within the current fiscal regime.
Health needs to be done smarter.
Patients need improved patient care and communications between key medical stakeholders. Patient care needs improvement by a pragmatic approach to resolving pain points and innovation not reduced support from Pyne’s boys club.
A key indicator globally for Health is a countries Return to Work rate for Injured Workers.
In the last 20 years every western world country, except Australia has improved their Return to Work rate. This one statistic is a damming indictment on the Australian Health system and its combined management by the past and current State & Federal Governments.
At a granular level Aus Industry” (Department of Industry, Innovation & Science) is at the heart of the Turnbull’s heralded drive for innovation & change. Aus Industry make the decisions at the behest of Minister Pyne to facilitate much needed innovation in Australia. It is the Government body meant to support Health innovations.
Pyne’s Accelerating Commercialization program at this stage has no health innovation aspirations and has turned out to be little more than a boys club.
Gastroenterology Doctors treat the chronically ill from Diabetes to Hepatitis C. After the initial critical illness and resolution Gastroenterologist’s are required to review the stabilized patient in the Hospital for check ups. However the legacy build up of stabilized patients means that there is a shortage of Gastroenterologist’s able to take on the unstable chronically ill patients that need urgent medical attention. When the Gastroenterologist’s presented a solution saving money and allowing improved patient care for the chronically ill it was quashed without analysis. Practically the solution would have saved the Government 100’s of millions of dollars and significantly improved patient care for the chronically ill.
How does it go wrong for better patient care? The current Aus Industry process for Accelerated Commercialization grants is that Applicants are wooed to apply for Government grants.
Below are actual reasons for the rejection of Health innovations:-
Aus Industry: “your claim is rejected due to lack of management experience”
Applicant: “but “X” directly employs and is in charge of 4000 people, why is he considered incapable of management.. their business is an innovative global leader?”
Aus Industry: “You need to get private enterprise to support your application for commercialization. Government Department support means nothing as Government bodies do not understand a value proposition”
Applicant: “but the platform is to save time & money in a Government Department”
Aus Industry “improving patient care via improving administrative function is not innovative, medical technology to us is more like a wrist watch that can take blood pressure?”
Applicant: “I understand there are 5 government criteria, what are the parameters?”
Aus Industry: “we are not 100% sure we make it up on a case by case basis”
Aus Industry “we don’t want it to become public that over 50% of all workers and car accidents victims receive the incorrect amount of financial compensation for injury. We are in election mode can you re-submit later”
Aus Industry: “you did not show enough financial resources to support your application for matched funding”
Applicant: “But you told us the amount we had to put in the Application and we put that amount in and you said it was ok?”
Aus Industry: “your claim is rejected as you could not get the Government department supporting the Application to do a detailed financial analysis on why it is better that workers suffer less stress and get back to work faster”
Applicant: “surely that is common sense”
Well not according to Aus Industry.
Unless substantial changes occur to how Health is supported Australia’s ability to care for patients will continue to decline. The Accelerated Commercialization committee created by Pyne at Aus Industry is the club that should make the life changing decisions for our fearless and brightest. Marty Gauvin was appointed by Pyne on 14 September 2015 as a R&D committee member at Aus Industry. Only months prior to his appointment, Gauvin gained infamy for the collapse of Tier 5 and leaving millions in unpaid debts & unsecured creditors including Government coffers.
You can promise the Government to invest over 100M and obtain government financial support if you have the right connections.
The collapse of Tier 5 left both the SA Government and Flinders University red-faced and facing significant losses. Though it did not stop Pyne a few months later elevating a friend Mr Gauvin and decide he was an ideal candidate to be a key decision maker for fearless entrepreneurs trying to ‘bag their own funding’. Mr Gauvin is personally being sued by Directors of Applicant companies before Aus Industry as a result of the collapse of Tier 5. Notably those same Applicants whose applications prior to the launch of legal proceedings were initially deemed compliant for grant assistance have now post legal proceedings against Mr Gauvin been informed by Aus Industry their application has been rejected. Accelerating Commercialisation Project No: AC50161.
Minister Pyne’s appointment of Gauvin speaks volumes of the Governments thirst for true innovation. Gauvin’s appointment can be considered the equivalent of putting a 5 year old in charge of a lolly shop.
The more you delve into Turnbull’s promise to deliver “innovation to drive increased productivity and economic growth” the more you realize you have a prevailing boys club at Aus Industry that are presently patting each other on the back. Grant Committee members Steve Telburn claims to alone have received over 6 Federal Government grants.
Bruce Godfrey another Committee member claims to have received 15M in Federal Government funding. The Aus Industry Committees are a caricature of what is wrong with Turnbull’s innovation centrepiece. It is simply empty rhetoric. Praise Australia talent publicly and then appoint an American as Chairman. The Americans have a Health system worse than Australia’s. A deep dive of the Accelerated Commercialization Committee shows it to be politically stuffed with no Health focus, observable entrepreneurs or actual business builders. There appear no prospects for innovation support for the most significant and growing component of the Australian budget. http://www.business.gov.au/grants-and-assistance/innovation-rd/InnovationAustralia/Documents/IA-CommitteesMembershipandTerms.pdf
Health is the most significant budgetary issue and personal issue that faces or will face every Australian. Unlike normal supply and demand mechanisms the appetite for improvements in Health can never be sated. If you are allowed to eat as much as possible at some stage you have to stop, as you can eat no more. Health runs contrary to normal economic paradigms and the more opportunity to increase Health services the more demand. Hence the manual nature of the current Health system has already exhausted limited resources. The way to expand and improve patient care is to be smarter and provide Health the specialist attention it deserves. Adopt readily available cost effective technological and innovative improvements, improve productivity. Health must be a priority and not given to a Minister who appears to prefer the sports portfolio.
Health is the most important thing a person has, which most people take for granted until they have lost it. The current Government is running the same gauntlet and as each days passes the Government misses a significant opportunity to lower costs and improve patient care and Australia’s Health.
Gillard and Abbott never provided hope, we hoped and they failed.
Turnbull’s arrogance and lack of effort to match his rhetoric with actions, in allowing boys club to run unfettered is creating a chasm which no amount of political spin will cover up. Turnbull promised increased opportunity for innovation and in spades has failed to deliver. Abbott and Gillard were dullards but at least they tried and openly failed in Australia’s best interest.
To actively claim to be progressive, preach innovation to a country, thirsting for hope and salivation but truly be regressive is in my eyes inexcusable.
Chris Pynes, Minister for Innovation was contacted to clarify his relationship with Mr Gauvin and the written response from Mr Pyne did not answer that one question.
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**The views in this article are those of the author