​NT allocates AU$185.9m for healthcare IT overhaul

The Northern Territory government has handed down its 2016-17 budget, and set to spend AU$185.9 million on IT modernisation of its healthcare sector.

As part of the AU$1.52 billion allocated in the 2016-17 budget to health-related services in the Northern Territory, Treasurer David Tollner has handed out AU$185.9 million for the territory's Core Clinical Systems Renewal Program.

The AU$185.9 million overhaul will be the largest information technology reform in the territory's history, with the five-year investment including the introduction of real-time individual electronic health records, an initiative Tollner said will result in the provision of end-to-end clinical information to all health providers at the point of care.

"What this means is that the Northern Territory will be the only place in the country where, for example, a patient from a remote area could visit a private general practitioner in Darwin and have instant access to their medical records," Tollner said in his budget speech.

"This will provide more comprehensive information for the GP, which will result in better outcomes for the patient."

In a bid to convert the top-end into the "Knowledge Territory", the government hopes to grow the economy by pumping over AU$1 billion into education, including training and apprenticeship support.

As part of the Knowledge Territory funding, AU$1 million will be used to establish the independent Office of the Chief Scientist, which Tollner said will provide high-level advice on matters relating to science and innovation in a territory context.

The territory has also allocated AU$4.4 million to the upkeep of its datacentre services, which includes the establishment of a second datacentre for an expected cost of AU$3.3 million.

The NT will kick off the 2016-17 financial year with a deficit of AU$794 million, with deficits forecast to reduce over the forward estimates, with Tollner expecting the territory to return to a AU$12 million surplus in 2019-20.

For 2016-17, the territory holds net debt of AU$2.7 billion. This year, Tollner has also projected as of 2019-20, net debt will be approximately AU$3.1 billion.

Last year, Tollner said net debt was cut from an estimated AU$4.1 billion to AU$2.6 billion, in large part due to the sale of the Territory Insurance Office, with the treasurer saying at the time the Budget would reach surplus by 2017-18.

The Northern Territory government also plans to spend AU$1.7 billion on the territory's infrastructure, AU$210.9 million for housing in remote communities, AU$62.2 million to upgrade parks and sporting facilities, and AU$768 million on community safety, which includes the provision of 18 remote police stations and the AU$12.6 million, three year upgrade of the ultra-high frequency (UHF) radio equipment and infrastructure to 400MHz spectrum across government.