Lib's e-health scrap risks "thousands of lives"

Access Card head says e-health no political toy

The Opposition’s pledge to crush the Government’s national e-health scheme will risk "thousands of lives" and waste millions in taxpayer funds, according to a former advisor to the scrapped Access Card.

The Liberal Party has pledged to axe the troubled e-health project to save some $2 billion, but has yet to announce a health policy of its own.

Australia’s first e-health scheme was crushed when the Rudd Government tossed the deeply unpopular Access Card that promised to replace the Medicare card and integrate components of Centrelink and social services, along with personal biometric information.

The Gillard Government’s e-health scheme includes the recently introduced unique health identifiers, but it is behind schedule and has suffered problems of integration and vendor support.

The Labor Government has also committed $467 million over the next two years to the development and implementation of voluntary, personally controlled e-health records.

Yet former lead advisor to the Access Card - Booz & Company consultant, Klaus Boehncke - said lives are being placed at risk while e-health is used as political fodder.

“I hope the Opposition does not make the same mistake as the Government did with the Access Card by scrapping e-health because of some controversial components,” Boehncke said.

“More people die from errors in medical treatment than traffic accidents. They put air-bags in cars, seatbelts… yet thousands die because health care is full of avoidable errors. Frankly it is a disgrace.”

A spokesman for shadow health minister, Peter Dutton, said the Coalition had not released its health policy and would not confirm if the party will replace the scrapped e-health system with its own, should it win the election next month.

The Government’s e-health scheme could save $7.6 billion by 2020, according to a report by Boehncke released in March this year.

Boehncke said e-health should remain intact under both governments, and recommended e-health components be introduced to the mature Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme.

He said the most advanced e-health systems exist where governments have remained stable, and pointed to the Italian regional government of Lombardy.

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