The NSW government has moved to restructure the Department of Health and has established a new agency, eHealth NSW, to reflect the growing role of technology in health provision.
According to NSW health minister, Jillian Skinner, the agency will drive innovation, improve implementation of electronic health initiatives and provide support to the local health Districts and their facilities.
The restructure has also resulted in the elimination of 200 middle management positions to free up more than $80 million for front-line services and provide better support for local health Districts.
“The new structure will provide greater transparency and accountability, duplication of tasks will be stopped and there will be greater clarity of roles and responsibilities,” Skinner said in a statement.
“The Department of Health will become the Ministry of Health, reduced in size and with a flatter structure as the local health networks have greater control.”
The Australian Medical Association (AMA) has thrown its weight behind the restructure, labelling it “a step in the right direction”.
“The importance of local clinician engagement in decision-making over instructions being handed down from a centralised bureaucracy is something that we’ve been championing for some time,” AMA NSW president, Michael Steiner, said in a statement.
“Changing the role of the Health Department to a more hands-off one and moving away from a culture of micro-management of hospitals by a centralised bureaucracy shows that the NSW Government has listened to what doctors and other health professionals have been saying for several years.
According to Steiner, giving local health districts more responsibility will enable them to improve services to their regions and encourage clinicians to get more involved in decision making.
“Giving greater responsibility to the Clinical Education and Training Institute, the Clinical Excellence Commission and the Agency for Clinical Innovation and removing duplication with the Health Department is also a move in the right direction,” he said.
US-based IT services provider CSC, which recently acquired Health IT company iSOFT for $178 million, also welcomed the move.
“No longer is IT a backoffice function as this structure demonstrates that technology is a necessary part of a modern, safe and quality healthcare system that is fundamental to healthcare service delivery,” a CSC spokesperson said in a statement.
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