IT’S NOT often I start a column with a direct Hansard quote, but South Australian Liberal senator Anne Ruston provided pure gold during last month’s budget estimates hearing on NEHTA’s e-health.
The National e-Health Transition Authority is tasked with creating a universal electronic medical record – a task so Herculean, one suspects they would gladly trade places with Sisyphus.
Okay, so one should never mix one’s Roman and Greek gods, but at least my confusion wasn’t chiselled onto the Hansard…
Senator Ruston: My questions are around e-cigarettes or e-vaporisers, or whatever they are supposedly called.
Chair: I was told it was e-health.
Ruston: Is that not the right place?
Chair: This is e-health.
Ruston: Brilliant. That was quick.
At that point, Ruston sat down, but I would gladly have tagged into the ring.
Chair: And you are…?
Me: Coleman, an e-health e-xpert.
Chair: You have the floor.
Me: Indeed, as you have the only chair! (Polite tittering from the public gallery.) My first question for NEHTA concerns emails. I get way too many.
NEHTA: Senator, emails are not our concern.
Me: Exactly! You don’t give a fig. Yet, I received 261 emails last week alone!
NEHTA: But our remit is purely e-records.
Me: Surely 261 would come close to a record?
NEHTA: Umm… (looks around for help, but I pounce while I have him flustered)
Me: And vitamin E. I note your e-health report barely mentions it. (Senator Ruston winks at me – our man is crumbling under the scrutiny of the Westminster democratic system.)
Chair: Senator Coleman, we are limiting this discussion to electronic records.
Me: Like CD albums and such?
NEHTA: No, the electronic health system for all Australians.
Me: Now, let’s not confuse ourselves. (I confuse myself. Although Senator Ruston suggests I press the e-vapes issue again, I call NEHTA’s bluff.) I have never heard of it.
Chair: You have a 900-page report in front of you, Senator. (What I took to be my podium does indeed appear to be a sort of giant document pile.)
Me: …which of course I have read. (An enthusiastic interpretation of my glance at the title.) Perhaps I meant I have never heard anyone say it out loud.
NEHTA: (Confident now) Our report details 860 media articles.
Me: Ah. (I could soon go the way of Ruston!) And what do these articles say about e-health? (I have, unwittingly, pressed a nerve, and he hesitates)
NEHTA: Umm… mainly that no-one has heard of it.
Me: (A triumphant Senator Ruston is prodding my back with some sort of jockey whip.) And who are these ‘all Australians’ of whom you speak, Mr NEHTA?
Me: And how many have signed up?
Me: How much was spent?
NEHTA: (Pauses. Sighs deeply.) If it pleases the Chair, I would like to return to Senator Ruston’s important question regarding e-cigarettes…
Pure gold. Thanks Dr C.