HealthLink chief executive Tom Bowden says the company has received more than 500 letters of support from GPs over its revolt against an agreement to interconnect health networks.
Telecom and TelstraClear have agreed to interconnect their health networks through a neutral switch provided by Datacom. However, HealthLink has refused to sign the agreement, initiated by the Health Information Strategy Action Committee (HISAC), because of security concerns.
It subsequently wrote a letter to New Zealand’s 1,100 GPs seeking their support.
“We have also fielded calls from GP leaders offering their support, and we are currently briefing them regarding our concerns on this and wider issues,” he says.
“What we cannot understand is that, with information privacy a matter of growing concern, why the Health Ministry is reluctant to commit a small amount of time and effort to write some simple practice security guidelines.
“We note that in at least one media comment, the ministry appears to have criticised us for being ‘too conservative’. We are very happy to be conservative about privacy and security, which is exactly what our customers want us to be.
“We have had indications that the ministry is conceding it needs to sit down and sort this out. We think that would be a good idea. There are a lot of other issues that need focusing on.”
HISAC has previously acknowledged some of the issues raised by HealthLink but says they are not in themselves material to the interconnection agreement.
Bowden sought the business case for the agreement under the Official Information Act, designated Appendix 1. He received the 63-page document under a covering letter from Alan Hesketh, deputy director general of the Ministry of Health’s information directorate, in which Hesketh notes there are deletions in accordance with section 9 of the Act.
Anything relating to costs, timetables, procurement, benefits, risk and solution development has been deleted, along with several “unknown sections” where even the heading has been expunged.
“It’s worse than useless,” Bowden says. “We thought there might be a few related to cost but there are 63 deletions, including whole pages.
“I’ve written to the Ombudsman seeking the full document. This should be a matter of public discussion.
“They take vagueness to an art form but they’re doing things behind the scenes.
“Someone’s got a clear agenda.”