IT upgrades pepper WA state budget

Over in the west, WA Health's IT and the WA Police dominate the funding for IT projects allocated in the state's budget.
Written by Chris Duckett, Contributor

The AU$1.2 billion Perth Children's Hospital is the largest line item, technology-wise, in the Western Australian state budget, delivered yesterday.

Expected all up to cost AU$188 million for the technology fit-out, almost AU$95 million of its budget has been set aside for the current fiscal year. In the coming years across WA's forward estimates, the technology in the hospital is expected to cost AU$52 million in 2015-16, AU$17 million the year after, and AU$2.6 million in 2018-18.

In combination with the existing contracts for the construction and commissioning of the Fiona Stanley Hospital (FSH), the budget for IT projects within WA Health sits just over AU$100 million this year.

"The 2014-15 Budget includes an additional AU$40.1 million (AU$12.4 million in 2013-14 and AU$27.7 million in 2014-15) to ensure a robust ICT platform at the FSH site," the budget papers said.

"This ICT investment will enable the FSH to better integrate with hospital and health services across the State and permit a more seamless transitioning of patient care as the facility is progressively commissioned in 2015."

As WA's pathology information system, operated by PathWest, has reached its end of operational life, AU$29.4 million has been set aside over four year for a replacement system.

For the next financial year, the WA government will spend AU$32.7 million on its state-wide telehealth service, which will see the purchase and installation of equipment and associated systems at 26 sites.

"The Emergency Telehealth Service provides clinical support across 32 country hospitals by using video conferencing technology to link specialist emergency doctors to country hospitals, thus enabling local doctors and nurses to provide more safe and quality high-level emergency care," the budget said. "This initiative is benefiting the treatment of an estimated 4,500 regional emergency patients each year."

An allocation of AU$17 million for 2014-15 has been earmarked for "stabilising the existing ICT platform across WA Health", which will see an update of operating systems and software for around 25,000 personal computers in the health department.

Another big winner in budgetary terms for IT was the WA Police, that the budget papers say stores and retains a "vast amount of information", the quantity of which is only increasing.

"In some cases, this can be attributed to changes in technology, legislative requirements or changes in working practices," the budget said. "Maintaining proficient, effective and contemporary information management practices, tools and systems remains a high priority."

To that end, the WA Police will receive over AU$66 million for IT projects this budgetary year, and a further AU$19 million until 2016-17.

Until 2017-18, the WA Department of Corrective Services will have AU$20.2 million to spend on IT as it moves from a shared services model to stand-alone functionality.

"Expenditure will be focused on procuring financial, human resource management and ICT services, in preparation for commencement of full stand-alone corporate services in May 2016," the budget said. "The Department has progressed opportunities to utilise technology to improve service delivery, including the use of Global Positioning System tracking and Skype."

Of the other IT initiatives in the state, AU$2 million has been allocated over the forward estimates to the upgrade and maintenance of the WA Treasury Corporation's IT; AU$3 million will be spent on new systems for a trial site of the National Disability Insurance Scheme; and Workcover WA has gained AU$3.4 million to 2017-18 for the replacement of business and information systems.

WA Transport has gained AU$17.7 million over the forward estimates for IT, with budget saying that this year's allocation of AU$2.6 million will be focused on upgrading and replacing "data storage, networks, servers, communications hardware, and corporate information systems".

Synergy, the state's largest, and publicly owned, electricity operator, will receive AU$31.8 million to spend on IT. Replacing and upgrading IT assets commissioned before the break up of Western Power in 2006 is set to cost AU$6 million, with other funded initiatives to include changes to Synergy's website and billing systems to "enable customers to access products and services directly from digital devices".

Earmarked in yesterday's budget, was AU$45 million for mobile broadband coverage in regional Western Australia.

"The adoption of broadband-enabled services is fundamental to improving the productivity, competitive standing and wellbeing of regional WA," Treasurer Mike Nahan said.

Overall, the state budget projected that the state would slide deeper into the red as huge spending on infrastructure overshadows revenue raising and cost cutting measures.

A whopping AU$23.7 billion in planned infrastructure projects over the next four years will maintain the need for increased borrowings, Nahan told parliament as he delivered his first budget.

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