Health buying ill-understood
Queensland Health’s purchasing practices have been slammed in a new review.
An auditor-general’s report says Queensland public hospitals have been wasting millions of dollars when buying high-end medical equipment.
The review covers machines valued over $1 million, including CT scanners and MRIs.
Queensland Health spent more than $270 million on these devices in 2016.
This included 134 state-of-the art machines purchased for 12 of the state's 16 hospitals.
But the auditor-general found those in charge of signing off on the purchases only rarely delivered value for money to meet clinical needs.
In one case, a $4 million linear accelerator used for radiation oncology cost over double its value to maintain for its 10-year lifetime.
Additionally, of 17 high-value equipment replacements in 2014-2016, just one included a business case.
“This makes it difficult to determine if HHS (Hospital and Health Services) have done proper due diligence before investing public funds,” the report said.
The auditor-general found the HHS generally lacked the documentation to assure that:
- Departmental and state procurement policies were followed
- The full costs over the lifecycle of the asset were understood
- Alternative service delivery options were considered
- The expected benefits had been quantified
The report said a “lack of comprehensive planning” meant the equipment was managed in “an uncoordinated way using a patchwork of various asset management systems and approaches”.
“There isn't a single source of reliable information with a complete and accurate picture of high-value medical equipment stateside,” it said.
The report highlighted a string of cases in which imaging machines were under-used or over-used statewide.
Eleven of Queensland’s 25 public CT scanners were used on an above average basis, while half of the remaining 14 CT scanners were under-used.
“This indicates there may be an opportunity to better use these machines,” the report said.
The auditor-general warned that because the Queensland Health Department had “not been enforcing its own procedural requirements”, a cost blowout of up to $390 million by 2020 would ensue.
Queensland Health says it will implement all of the recommendations.
Health Minister Cameron Dick said the money was often spent at new or redeveloped hospitals.
“As a consequence there has been an increase in the number and acquisition value of high-value medical equipment like CT scanners, MRIs and linear accelerators,” he said.
“We cannot provide the most modern diagnostics and treatments without this high technology, and in a state as big as Queensland, it needs to be as close as possible to where patients actually live.”