Cops, e-health win big in WA budget

The Western Australian Government has committed to investing $89.6 million in this year's budget to continue e-health initiatives in the state, while the police received a stack of funding for communications and core systems upgrades.

The Western Australian Government has committed to investing $89.6 million in this year's budget to continue e-health initiatives in the state, while the police received a stack of funding for communications and core systems upgrades.

The state's 10-year eHealthWA program has been in place since 2006 and has so far seen the state replace its core health applications with what it calls the "New Core" that will establish accessible integrated electronic patient records in WA. Since 2010, the program has been working to align itself with the requirements of the Federal Government's e-health agenda, which will lead to a national personally controlled e-health record in July 2012.

According to budget documents, as a part of a raft of investment in IT upgrades across a number of government departments, the WA Government will invest $89.6 million in WA Health ICT.

"It is anticipated that this investment will increase access to, and integrity of, patient related information," the documents stated.

A WA auditor-general's report released in October 2010 was highly critical of the failure of WA Health to implement a new patient record system, and said the failure to do so had put patients' lives at risk.

The report revealed that the WA Government had allocated $52 million to be spent on the implementation of a new system, but the Health Information Network, the group in charge of the procurement process, had failed four times to provide a suitable business case to the government in order to access the funds to upgrade the systems.

The WA Police also secured a hefty amount of funding for IT initiatives, with Police Minister Rob Johnson announcing $98.4 million in funding for IT infrastructure maintenance and upgrades over the next three years.

"This funding will maintain reliable IT services, allowing officers to access critical and timely information while on patrol," Johnson said. "It will also allow for the adoption of new digital evidence capture technologies, such as cameras within police vehicles, with a view to protecting front-line staff and the public."

A total of $89.6 million was also allocated to improve the core business systems used by the WA Police.

"This funding will allow WA Police to implement a modern investigative case management system to support recently introduced investigative practice doctrine and provide a greater degree of quality control, supervision and search capacity," Johnson added.

Also, $71 million was allocated to replace the Regional Radio Network for WA Police.

Other funding for ICT in the WA budget includes:

  • $26.7 million to upgrade energy retailer Synergy's billing systems and IT environment to establish a "stand-alone" IT environment for the retailer
  • $19 million to overhaul Horizon Power's core IT systems
  • $15.6 million for the Insurance Commission of WA to improve network and server facilities and upgrade desktop workstations "and enhanced disaster recovery and imaging facilities"
  • $10 million over three years to upgrade the e-courts management system and replace existing legacy systems.

The Department of Racing, Gaming & Liquor was not one of the lucky departments to receive an ICT infrastructure upgrade and noted in the budget documents that its own ageing IT systems could potentially impact on the department's ability to hand out liquor licences.

"The main information technology systems and business applications, which underpin the licensing and compliance activities of the Department and directly support the delivery of services to the public, have either reached or are reaching the end of their lifespan."

Shared Services on hold

The WA Government has held off giving any funding for the Office of Shared Services, pending the Economic Regulation Authority's review called by WA Premier Colin Barnett earlier this year. The review was announced after a WA auditor-general's report into the office found that projected cost-savings were around seven years short.

In the budget, the WA Government has said that funding will be subject to decisions relating to the recommendations of the Economic Regulation Authority's review due to be handed to government in June.

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