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VIBERT: Is there a question for that answer?

Jim Vibert
Jim Vibert - SaltWire Network

Reporters ask questions and the government provides answers, just not to the same questions.

That’s often how it works these days and reporters deal with it. But the evasion of the myriad questions swirling around One Person One Record (OPOR) seems symptomatic of a government with egregious disregard for its duty to be accountable.

Regardless of the question asked about the OPOR procurement process, the government’s response hangs on its self-assessment, or that of its hired “fairness monitor,” that the process was fair and open.

But how is it fair that, in the months leading up to the competition, one of the certain bidders on the OPOR contract was rebuffed by the Nova Scotia Health Authority, while two competing bidders were featured presenters in the NSHA’s Let’s Talk Informatics series?

The provincial government won’t touch that question with a barge-pole.

When it’s pointed out the groups that stayed close with the NSHA, and did the Let’s Talk presentations, went on to become the two finalists for the lucrative contract, the government ducks for cover.

Follow that up with word that the NSHA — in what looks like a ham-fisted attempt to cover its tracks — removed or broke the links on its website to those same Let’s Talk episodes, and you can almost see the embarrassment rising like steam off provincial civil servants who still know right from wrong.

One Person One Record is an electronic health record (EHR) intended for every Nova Scotian. Doctors Nova Scotia President Tim Holland has said that, done right, it has the potential to greatly improve the way health care is delivered in the province. But done wrong it could cripple the system, as was the case on Vancouver Island, where a badly botched EHR rollout all but paralyzed health-care delivery.

Estimates of the value of the OPOR contract run into nine figures.


More from Jim Vibert on health care in Nova Scotia


The province has a three-part response ready for any and all questions concerning the OPOR competition.

It goes something like this: The province’s procurement process is a fair and open way to buy stuff. An internal review sparked by a complaint from one of the unsuccessful bidders determined that the competition was fair, open and transparent. And third, a “fairness monitor” paid by the province concluded that the OPOR process was “carried out in a fair, open and transparent manner.”

The government’s plan is clearly to repeat “fair, open” and sometimes “transparent” while studiously ignoring all the troubling details that suggest the competition was more open to some than others, thus casting a pall over the claim that it was fair. As for transparency, well, it’s hard to see through a stonewall.

The two finalists for the OPOR contact are health-IT giants Allscripts and Cerner, the vendor on the Vancouver Island EHR.

It was a member of the group led by Evident, a smaller IT player that’s gaining market share, who was told by the NSHA that it wasn’t meeting vendors, even as the eventual finalists were honing their NSHA-sponsored presentations.

Evident also filed the complaint which, among other problems, cited a troubling exchange between a consultant working on its bid and the NSHA’s senior IT official, Keltie Jamieson.

The Evident complaint alleges that, before the competition began, its consultant was told by Jamieson, who now leads the OPOR project at the NSHA, that she was “not impressed” that a small company like Evident felt it could meet the needs of a behemoth like the NSHA.

Setting aside the unseemly self-importance such a comment betrays, it would be hard to read it as anything other than an unfavourable predisposition toward one of the bidders by a key player in the OPOR process.

No one in the government or the NSHA has disputed that this exchange took place, nor do they bother to deal with the inconvenient reality that such a conversation belies any claim that the competition was “open.” Jamieson’s remarks, if made, all but closed the door on Evident’s chances.

The winner of the OPOR contact is expected to be announced any time, and the government will undoubtedly claim that the contract was awarded after an “open, fair and transparent” process, while continuing to ignore all evidence that it was anything but.

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