Queensland Health (QH) became a target for an outburst of mudslinging when people either close to, or inside the organisation, dished the dirt on its IT department and revolving door CIOs.
Heated criticism claiming the department is in disarray and lacks leadership erupted following an innocuous e-mail leaked on a Courier Mail blog that cited the appointment of Ray Brown as interim CIO in early December. Brown, who was previously QH’s information division executive director, replaced acting CIO Dr Richard Ashby in late January, and is now the department’s CIO 4.0 in just two years.
A string of failed projects aired on the public record over the last six years has set a shaky history for QH, which includes the axing of its last permanent CIO Paul Summergreene on alleged misconduct charges less than 12 months after he took the job.
Plans to fast-track the adoption of electronic patient records across the state collapsed in 2006, while in 2007 QH's technology partner EDS withdrew from the eHealth Alliance that is designed to buttress a now defunct clinical information systems project.
A QH spokesperson told Computerworld EDS withdrew from the alliance due to a “conflict of interest” arising from its acquisition by Hewlett Packard in August last year. The spokesperson said EDS is providing “some contract resources” to its IT department under arrangements.
After posting the internal e-mail on his Pineapple Politics blog, Craig Johnstone asked: “How goes the department’s E-health policy?” There was no paucity of opinion, with comments running hot and heavy claiming QH's IT department “is currently experiencing its worst period of operation with a distinct lack of leadership”. Other purported staff said employees had a lack of confidence in Dr Ashby.
“Ashby had no real interest acting as a CIO and largely left the role of running the information division to Brown,” one blogger wrote. “The notion that Brown is capable of running the Information Division is laughable. I can’t recall a more ineffectual CIO.”
The spokesperson refuted the claim, painting Brown, a former CIO at Queensland Police alongside Summergreene, as “highly regarded within the industry” and said he has had a “long and successful career in ICT service delivery”.
QH enacted a policy change after Summergreene's departure requiring all CIOs to have clinical experience.
However, the spokesperson did not respond to allegations made by one blogger that “QH’s eHealth program is in complete disarray, with eHealth capital funds significantly underspent, little progress whatsoever in implementing the strategy that was used to justify the allocation of capital to eHealth by Treasury, the resignation of EDS from the eHealth Alliance, a whole heap of activity around initiatives that fly in the face of the approach embodied within the eHealth Strategy, the complete turnover of all senior IT management in the last twelve months . . .”