Hospital e-buying plans up in air

The demise of the Onezone electronic marketplace has left two hospitals' e-procurement plans up in the air.

The demise of the Onezone electronic marketplace has left two hospitals’ e-procurement plans up in the air.

Gisborne Hospital was a trial user of the laboratory and office supplies marketplace, which was shut down at the start of the month. Taranaki District Health Board, meanwhile, had plumped for Onezone after two years of developing an e-procurement policy.

Gisborne Hospital supply manager Rex Richards was initially positive about the trial, expecting it to streamline purchasing. But with Onezone’s closure, he predicts a conservative approach by the hospital to further electronic buying moves.

“I think it will be pretty quiet for the next 12 months. If someone else comes into the field, I think the hospital will be pretty shy.”

But Taranaki isn’t deterred.

“Onezone’s closure was unexpected,” says Taranaki District Health Board corporate support manager Gordon Chisnall, “but we got a lot out of it.”

Chisnall says Taranaki only signed up with Onezone after getting a thorough understanding of requisition and payment systems.

“Once we had things working internally the way they needed to, we looked for electronic support for the system.”

Creating an interface between the board’s Oracle financial system and Onezone took just a matter of days, and can readily be replicated with another exchange, Chisnall believes.

“I can’t discuss a fall-back plan because it’s not at the stage of being finalised. But all is not lost by any stretch of the imagination.”

In the course of choosing Onezone, Taranaki also considered the School Trustees Association STAbuy portal as an option. Chisnall says it was dismissed at the time because it would have taken longer than the board was prepared to wait to provide it with what it wanted.

Chisnall says the philosophy of the exchange Taranaki works with is important to the board. “Onezone’s philosophy was about supplying a medical portal of choice; it wasn’t a bland commercial undertaking.” STAbuy’s philosophy was the most altruistic of the options considered.

Onezone failed to strike supplier agreements with big medical product makers including GlaxoSmithKline and Johnson & Johnson. Richards says had it managed to do so, Gisborne could have spent a six-figure sum per month through the exchange.

Chisnall believes big suppliers might not consider it in their interests to work through exhanges since they “like to see buyers as fragmented as possible”.

Onezone was set up at the start of the year by laboratory supplies distributor Biolab Scientific, but closed because it wasn’t attracting enough custom or investment funds.

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