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Ministry of Health breaks down costs of controversial immunisation register

Ministry of Health breaks down costs of controversial immunisation register

Core of new National Immunisation Register will cost $15.1 million.

Shayne Hunter (Ministry of Health)

Shayne Hunter (Ministry of Health)

Credit: Supplied

Ministry of Health deputy director-general of data and digital Shayne Hunter has broken down the costs of a controversial new, Salesforce-based immunisation register.

The project attracted strong blow-back from incumbent supplier Orion Health last week when that company's founder and CEO, Ian McCrae, alleged up to $35 million had been "squandered" and called on the Auditor-General to investigate.

McCrae said Orion could have upgraded the existing solution to meet the ministry's requirements for less than $3 million.

Hunter said the business case of the future National Immunisation System forecast costs of $38 million over four years to transform the way immunisation campaigns were delivered in New Zealand.

That covers a mix of business and technology costs including software, project resources, operational support, change management and ongoing business improvement, integration to GP systems, and consumer access to view their immunisation status and other related data.

The $38 million breaks down to $15.1 million to build and roll out the core National Immunisation Solution, initially for COVID-19, then for all services in 2022.

(Update: The Australian government has awarded IBM a two-year, A$19 million contract to upgrade the back end of Australia’s immunisation records system to cope with COVID vaccination data.)

Nine million dollars more would be spent to build the consumer information channel allowing individuals to access their own immunisation data. 

Meanwhile, $2.8 million would cover operating costs over the first two years.

After that, a "business as usual" cost of $5.9 million a year would cover operating costs, maintenance and support, depreciation and a capital charge.

"The National Immunisation System itself will be significantly more complex and have greater functionality than the current national immunisation register, which was a register rather than a service that supports a full range of requirements including screening campaign management, multi-vaccine support, inventory distribution and tracking, safety monitoring, reporting, workforce, integration to GP systems, consumer access to their information," Hunter told Reseller News.

The new system would also be easily configurable, avoiding significant cost and effort each time vaccination schedules change in future. 

The system is the latest extension of technology and services acquired in 2018 to create the $21.3 million National Screening Solution for bowel cancer. That contract went to a consortium consisting of Salesforce, Deloitte and AWS.

According to disclosures to Parliament, Salesforce's share of that was $3.4 million.

McCrae told Reseller News if Orion had been engaged to upgrade the existing immunisation register for an estimated $2 million it would have been a minor project from its point of view because the company was winning "big, chunky projects" for its advanced population health system offshore.

"I guess the issue here is it's hard to sit by and watch so much being spent to deliver so little," McCrae said last week. 

"It's just fundamentally wrong and all because if they had bothered to ask for pricing from us, and we are quite good at doing pricing, they would have saved so much money."

Ian McCrae (Orion Health)Credit: Supplied
Ian McCrae (Orion Health)

McCrae said the Salesforce strategy should have been compared with other strategies.

"That's what's called a procurement," he said. "Just to say 'this is the strategy, we aren't going to look at anything else' ... I don't know why you'd do that.

"Certainly at the very least you'd get the other options on the table, the other pricings, and compare them.

"What you will find is there is a huge price difference, a massive price difference between what Salesforce and their consultants are charging and what we would have charged."

Other local and international vendors would probably also have submitted proposals, McCrae added.

Salesforce has emerged as the go-to platform for the ministry, being progressively extended into new areas without separate procurement processes for each.

McCrae said there is no mandate for these extensions into other areas without a new procurement process because these areas were quite specialised.

"If you were building a house you would get pricings from various builders," he said. "You would compare the prices, you just wouldn't give it willy-nilly to anybody.

"Getting alternative bids and prices is something you should do. You are going to put pressure on the vendors like us to propose the best solutions."


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