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VIBERT: NSHA, province short on One Person One Record answers

Jim Vibert
Jim Vibert - SaltWire Network

Why did the Nova Scotia Health Authority bury evidence of its cosy, prior relationship with the two finalists chosen to bid on the biggest health IT contract in Nova Scotian history?

Why won’t the NSHA answer that question?

What about the provincial government? Is there anybody in there who cares enough about Nova Scotian taxpayers or the reputation of the province to get to the bottom of this?

The story of the process to find an IT provider for One Person One Record (OPOR) is rife with irregularities, dubious decisions and eye-raising relationships, all catalogued brilliantly by Paul Schneidereit in The Chronicle Herald a week ago.

Neither the contrived response from the provincial government, nor its echo from the NSHA, answers the questions at the heart of the matter. Both avoid the central issue in favour of a smokescreen — the conclusions of an internal review and a “fairness” monitor from Ottawa prove that the process is clean. Except they don’t.

Did you miss the story Jim Vibert is talking about? find it here:

Saying vs. doing

Schneidereit’s reporting tells the whole story and is far too detailed to repeat here, so let’s zero in on just one simple aspect: the relationship between senior staff at the NSHA and the two companies that came out on top and are now the only bidders for the massive OPOR contract – Allscripts and Cerner.

In March 2016, the NSHA’s chief information officer, Keltie Jamieson, who has primary responsibility for OPOR, wrote a representative of a consortium led by Evident, a company that tried to qualify but didn’t make it to the final round, saying: “Although we are not formally in an RFP, we are not meeting with vendors at this time.”

Except that’s exactly what the NSHA was doing throughout that spring, summer and fall leading up to qualifying bidders.

there’s the “fairness” monitor, who isn’t talking despite a website that boasts inordinately of “transparency.”

The two outfits that were eventually invited to bid on OPOR, dined with and shined their bona fides with senior NSHA officials and invited guests.

Both Cerner and Allscripts made presentations as part of the NSHA’s Health Informatics series after the unsuccessful qualifier Evident was told “we’re not meeting with vendors.”

At one of those sessions, a senior Allscripts executive begins by thanking the NSHA folks for a great evening at the Bicycle Thief, one of Halifax’s high-end eateries.

Jamieson and another NSHA official were also seen fine-dining with a member of the Cerner consortium.

Something smells rotten

Although Informatics sessions dating back to January 2016 are available on the NSHA website, the 2016 sessions featuring the two eventual finalists in the OPOR procurement are either scrubbed out or the links are broken. Schneidereit called that “odd” but from here it looks like an attempt to deceive, evade, or cover up — maybe all three.

Six companies answered the province’s request for supplier qualifications, the preliminary stage before qualified companies were invited to submit a full proposal.

Of the six, one was disqualified on a technicality; another was jettisoned as unqualified and four were evaluated.

Remarkably only two were qualified and invited to take part in the half-billion-dollar round. Right. The same two companies that enjoyed fine dining experiences and offered up some self-promotional wisdom at NSHA Let’s Talk sessions — Allscripts and Cerner.

Something is rotten in the state of Denmark, said Marcellus, only because he never got a look at Nova Scotia.

Evident, of course, cried foul, and was shovelled the same pile the rest of us are now expected to swallow. The procurement was reviewed, and all was found to be in order.

Plus, there’s the “fairness” monitor, who isn’t talking despite a website that boasts inordinately of “transparency.”

RFP Solutions was apparently excluded from the fine dining portions of the procurement process, but Nova Scotia taxpayers have no doubt remitted payment-in-full, both for RFP’s monitoring and for the tony dinners.

Industry insiders are surprised that only two firms were qualified to bid on OPOR. The province said it would qualify up to five potential suppliers but settled on the two that are harder to find on NSHA’s website today than they once were.

This project will impact the quality of health care in Nova Scotia for years. Two firms made the shortlist based on 50-odd-page submissions. The vendors’ systems were not assessed.

“Stunning” — and not in a good way — is how one industry source characterized the government’s process to get the bidders down to a very select two.

All that’s at stake here are hundreds of millions of tax dollars, plus the efficacy of medical care for decades. Apparently, that’s not enough to convince Nova Scotia’s Liberal government or its creature, the NSHA, to get this right.

Because until they come clean about the relationship with the surviving bidders and the ham-fisted attempt to blur that relationship with a little digital whiteout, this is not right.

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