CANBERRA — Telstra called out on cancer registry fail
Missed deadlines for the National Cancer Screening Register are affecting more than just Telstra’s hip pocket.
Poor Telstra. Fresh from apologising for two outages in its phone network, including one affecting the triple-0 emergency line, Telstra’s failings are under the spotlight again.
A recent Senate estimates hearing asked health officials to explain exactly what was happening with the National Cancer Screening Register, for which Telstra was awarded a $200 million contract to establish.
The launch of the register was delayed by six months last year, finally rolling out on 1 December 2017. And because the changes to cervical screening – which replaced Pap smears with five-yearly HPV screening – were linked to the register, this revamp was delayed too.
Under questioning, health officials revealed that Telstra’s pay had been docked over the bungle. Despite being at least 20% of the way into the contract, Telstra had only been paid $11 million, they said.
And fines (not just docked pay) were “certainly an option” if Telstra missed any more deadlines, they added.
Furthermore, although the new register went live in December 2017, patient histories will only be available on the register from the end of this month, which has left doctors with a hybrid model of state and national registries for the past six months.
It’s not all over just yet for Telstra when it comes to cancer registries. It still has to set up a new bowel screening register. This was also due in 2017, but was put on hold while Telstra worked on the cervical cancer register. It is now expected to be up and running in late 2019.
Health officials said the delays to both registers had “no impact on patient services”, but pathologists don’t feel the same way.
Most of the cytologists who processed Pap smear tests quit last year, leaving labs short-staffed.
As a result, analyses were delayed during the May-December period, leaving patients waiting for important results.
Source: Australian Doctor | Author: Antony Scholefield