In August 1997 FIRB was considering Sun
Healthcare's application. I wrote a criticism of the conduct of
politicians and their deliberate blindness when confronted by health
Governments who welcomed Columbia/HCA into Australia were well informed
The two press reports on the reverse side refer to Columbia/HCA's welcome into Australia. This health care corporate giant is now the subject of one of the most extensive fraud investigations in the USA. It is being accused of destroying evidence and possibly intimidating witnesses. No one asked about its practices when it came to seek our government's approval.
Victoria, South Australia and federal governments:- Note that Columbia/HCA approached the governments in South Australia and Victoria and both seemed to welcome the company. Dr Armitage, minister for health in South Australia indicated that the company's ideas for services were in line with his plans for Adelaide. The Victorian minister of health was not only happy to welcome Columbia/HCA but after it had departed under a cloud and after being fully informed about Columbia/HCA he refused to indicate any anxiety to FIRB when told about the entry of Sun Healthcare into Australia. Sun is another US giant whose hospitals have been raided by the FBI and which is being investigated for fraud. Dr Wooldridge was also reported to be more that satisfied with Columbia/HCA's arrival.
All were well informed about US corporate medicine:- Dr Armitage when in opposition in 1993 corresponded with me and was briefed in regard to Tenet/NME's fraudulent practices, the consequences for patients and the situation in the USA. Victoria's health department carried out an investigation of Tenet/NME's practices in 1994. I personally supplied it with large numbers of Tenet/NME documents and also material, which indicated that the practices documented in Tenet/NME were not localised to that company. The present federal government was also supplied with many of these US documents when in opposition. The federal department of health was similarly informed and will have this material on file.
None of the governments made any inquiries about Columbia/HCA:- None of these governments can claim ignorance about the nature of US corporate medicine yet they chose to look the other way. Columbia/HCA's conduct was widely known and had been the topic of articles in international medical journals in all our libraries, had been extensively criticised in US television programs, was the subject of debate in the US congress and had been criticised in large numbers of news reports available on the internet and in our libraries. Representative Fortney Pete Stark had indicated his belief that Columbia/HCA's directors would end in jail and this had been reported in the press. The most elementary search would have turned up this material. There was widespread concern about Columbia.HCA's purchasing practices. State attorney generals were stepping in to stop them. Public meetings were called to discuss legislation to control Columbia/HCA's practices. The Australian embassy in Washington would have seen these reports and been aware of these matters.
We are justified in not trusting politicians:- What sort of people govern the country? One can only assume that the short term ideological commitment of these governments to apply economic rationalist principles to health care was such that they were prepared to jeopardise the future of our health system and disregard the risks for Australian citizens. Is it any wonder that the electorate is so distrustful of government? New governments in Australia gain power by default when incumbents are voted out. With the possible exception of the police, politicians are considered to be among the least trustworthy sections of society. This is a dreadful indictment of the sort of country Australia has become. We have moved a long way from the "Civil Society" referred to in a speech by Justice Michael Kirby, Justice of the High Court of Australia and President of the International Commission of Jurists. This was reproduced in the Sydney Morning Herald on 16 August 1997. Eva Cox in her 1995 Boyer Lectures elegantly argued that the sort of economic policies which our governments are pursuing would destroy such a civil society. This was reflected in disillusionment and distrust of the institutions of society including government and as Justice Kirby indicates, the judiciary.