Australia

Contractors get $156m to vaccinate the most at-risk. Why the secrecy?

Billions of dollars are spent on contracts often given to LDP donors, but taxpayers are not allowed to know the details.

(Image: AAP / David Mariuz)

Private contractor scores $ 155.9 million With last week’s budget to arm jabs as part of the government’s $ 7.2 billion COVID-19 vaccine program.

The government has spent a lot of money on Australian businesses during the pandemic. $ 10 billion It was awarded in a pandemic-related contract last year.

Despite the spectacular amount, the deployment is not going well. We had expected to have 20 to 25 million COVID vaccines on land so far, but instead we have only 9 million.only 3000000 Armed with it, less than 300,000 have become the most endangered people: disabled residents and elderly caregivers.

today Royal Commission for Persons with Disabilities Evaluate vaccination programs for disability and disability support workers of the government and its contractors.

The details of the contract remain secretly hidden — the government refused to publish the details of the bid. People in the field are questioning the cost and effectiveness of bringing in private contractors after turmoil, delays and low immunization rates.

A series of failures

The government employs four healthcare providers: Aspen Medical, Healthcare Australia (HCA), International SOS, and Sonic Clinical Services to vaccinate senior and disabled care residents and is state-based. It supplements the labor force.

However, there were myriad problems.Elderly care welfare worker Turned away From their important second dose, as their first dose was not recorded in the Australian Vaccination Register.was there No limit It is causing confusion as to who can register online to receive doses at the Sydney Mass Immunization Hub.A nurse contracted with Aspen Medical vaccinated an elderly caregiver in Tasmania Without permission From his legal guardian. One doctor contracted with HCA was given without completing the required vaccine online training course Wrong dose For 2 elderly patients.The HCA was inadequately planned Cancel vaccine delivery, And thousands of doses have been throw away After problems with temperature controlled storage.

HCA Chairman Daren McKennay said in a statement that CEO Jason Cartwright resigned from his role after the incident and the company shared serious community concerns about patients given the wrong dose.

“We generously apologize to the patients and their families involved in the pain caused by this and ensure that the error is isolated and not repeated,” he said.

The government heard it in late April by the Royal Commission for Persons with Disabilities, but refused to provide a breakdown of the number of residents in disability care. Only 6.5%.. Many elderly and disabled care residents who are dissatisfied with the slow speed Reserved State GP clinic for vaccination.

Robbie Moore, assistant secretary at Health and Community Services Union Tasmania, asks why you need a private contractor.Moore says Inq Aspen Medical was supposed to recruit nurses from the private sector to manage the shots, but if that wasn’t possible, it poached state officials. The state health department could have been organized without paying contractors.

“It was a disaster,” he said.

Introduced by Aspen Medical Inq “We were not familiar with the details of the federal contract with Aspen and were not a party to Aspen’s decision to hire,” the Federal Department of Health said.

Tasmanian Health Department did not answer the question from Inq..

“Aspen Medical has unparalleled experience in administering the COVID-19 vaccine in elderly and disabled care,” said Aspen, who previously signed vaccination agreements with the United States and the United Arab Emirates. He added that he was out.

Lloyd Williams, National Secretary of the Health Services Union, said: Inq Communication with the sector is poor and healthcare providers are given little information about vaccines and their industrial protection.

“We are seriously concerned about privatizing such an important public health business … no one else actually puts a clear plan or strategy under it,” he said. Told.

Secret to contract value

The details of the contract remain very secret.The contract is not listed on AusTender and the request for details is Parliament And by Inq, Ignored.

The four contractors are not strangers to political contributions. Sonic Healthcare gave the Liberal Party $ 533,500 Between 2011 and 2017 (and $ 55,000 to workers during the same period), it became the fourth largest donor from the medical industry prior to the 2016 election.

HCA is owned by the contributing private equity fund Crescent Capital. $ 208,250 Liberal Party, Labor Party, People After 2016-17. And it’s linked to former Labor Senator Sam Dastyari.

Aspen Medical was officially opened in 2004 by the then Minister of Health. Tony Abbott We have a large controversial government contract. One of the members of the founding committee was the former Liberal Party Federal Minister of Health. Michael Uldridge, And its founder, Andrew Walker, then left the company, Hide $ 15 Million Stocks..Donated $ 54,000 $ 29,800 to the Liberal Party between 2013 and 2015 and to workers between 2013 and 2020.

International SOS Donate $ 21,000 for workers and $ 14,400 for liberals between 2011 and 2017.

The government has increased spending on consulting firms year-on-year since 2018, with seven of the world’s largest companies scoring. $ 1.2 billion last year. Australia’s management consulting market is the fourth largest in the world, worth more than $ 6 billion annually. So Cricky Reported earlier, A good consulting firm was the winner in vaccine deployment, but their advice is a secret.

Bill Bowtell, a former labor adviser and adjunct professor at the Kirby Institute for Infection and Immunity, said: Inq The health sector is concerned about dependence on private companies.

“All of these transactions are part of the intermediary’s income and are done at the expense of the public health of the Australian people, because they cause delays and confusion and poor return on investment,” he said. Said.

“If they have a high-paying contract from the Commonwealth, the incentive is to maximize staff costs … to maximize profits.”

Need more accountability

Helen Dickinson, director of the Public Services Research Group at the University of New South Wales, said: Inq Providing key services using private contractors is not a bad thing in nature, but the accountability and low specificity of contracts has led to overwhelming results.

“We need to better understand what we’re trying to contract and what we want them to do,” she said. “Knowing if they were provided is a very vague kind of desire, and data collection is often very poor.”

Inadequate community involvement, according to Dickinson, often means that high-performance goals have little impact on workers and those who access services.

“At the state and federal level, there are people who have policies and contracts for these services and have no or no experience with those services,” she said. .. “You end up with terrible contracts and terrible local policies.”

Ministry of Health says Inq The government had “appropriate contract management arrangements commensurate with the nature, scope and risk of the services procured.”

“Given the size and complexity of Australia’s COVID-19 vaccination program, this sector continues to seek expertise to work with the private sector to support its deployment,” he said.

Sonic did not respond to requests for comment and International SOS introduced Inq To the Health Bureau.

Peter Frey

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Place of originContractors get $156m to vaccinate the most at-risk. Why the secrecy?

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