$200m for Queensland health service IT upgrades

The Queensland government has committed almost AU$200 million for health services IT software and hardware, in its latest budget, delivered today by Treasurer, Tim Nicholls.
Written by Leon Spencer, Contributor

Queensland's state budget, delivered today by Treasurer, Tim Nicholls, will see almost AU$200 million ploughed into IT hardware and software for the state's health services, over 2014-2015.

This year's budget sees a 6.4 percent increase in spending for the Department of Health, with the department receiving AU$199.8 million to fund the provision of ICT equipment and software in a bid to continue the replacement, upgrade and state wide rollout of information and technology equipment to support the eHealth strategy and the national Health Reform agenda.

According to the budget papers, AU$139.9 million will be invested in IT equipment to replace, upgrade and provide future capability to support the eHealth strategy's asset replacement program.

Meanwhile, AU$59.9 million will be invested in the continued state-wide rollout of eHealth clinical and administrative support systems, including integrated electronic Medical Records (ieMR) and delivering systems for results reporting, order entry, medications management, clinical notes and discharge summaries.

The Queensland eHealth  program provides electronic solutions for Queensland Health hospitals and facilities' staff with immediate access to patient information.

The state government also revealed that it would spend over AU$72 million this year on the Government Wireless Network (GWN), with over AU$1 million for the purchase of software to deliver an "integrated digital wireless network" for Queensland's public safety agencies and emergency workers.

"We're continuing to revitalise frontline services and the budget includes more than AU$72.4 million this year to deliver the Government Wireless Network as Brisbane gears up for the G20 Summit in November," said Nicholls.

Science, IT and Innovation Minister, Ian Walker, said the GWN project would connect thousands of police, ambulance, fire and emergency officers to the one secure digital network for the first time.

"This is a vital update to improve emergency services for all Queenslanders," said Walker. "This government promised to revitalise frontline services and the Government Wireless Network is a great example of achieving what we said we'd do.

"It allows emergency services officers to share information instantly and coordinate between multiple agencies," he said.

According to the government, the GWN will deliver enhanced digital radio voice and narrowband data communications for Queensland's public safety agencies, with improved communications security, interoperability between public safety agencies, added functionality, and a foundation to support effective front-line safety services.

In September 2013, the state appointed Telstra to provide the services of the GWN under a 15-year managed services agreement worth approximately AU$450 million, with the responsibility for the GWN project transferred from Projects Queensland to the Department of Science, Information Technology, Innovation and the Arts.

An early priority for the GWN Project is to deliver the communications needs for the G20 Leaders' Summit in 2014. Over time, other Queensland Government agencies, local governments and public safety providers will potentially use the GWN’s services as it is progressively deployed.

According to Walker, AU$8.1 million would also go towards the government's One-Stop Shop initiative to "improve the way Queenslanders receive their services from the government".

"This is another innovative way of cutting red tape and making it easier for Queenslanders to engage with the Government," he said. "One-Stop Shop has more than 50 new services online, including online drivers' licence renewal, so we're on target to achieve 100 new online services by the end of 2014.

"As part of the One-Stop Shop initiative, we'll be rolling out a raft of mobile and digital services in a pilot program now underway in the Lockyer Valley and Scenic Rim regions," he said.

The Electoral Commission of Queensland will receive AU$726,000 funding for ICT disaster recovery facilities, and other initiatives, down from last year's AU$803,000 budget funding.

This budget also sees AU$15.7 million in capital purchases for a range of information and communication technology initiatives within the Department of Police, Fire and Emergency Services, including mobile services, the Public Safety Network and the technology and a communication equipment refresh program.

"The Budget also includes AU$37.9 million for new police vehicles and over AU$22 million to renew Queensland Police Service operation equipment, communications centres and mobile policing facilities," said Nicholls.

“There is also almost AU$110 million for capital works, information technology and other essential equipment over the next financial year," he said.

Meanwhile, the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry received AU$2.1 million capital funding for the development of a new Biosecurity Information Management System.

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