Negotiations determining the fate of the Dunedin-based
National Poisons Centre are not transparent, and may result
in a significantly downgraded service presented as a fait
accompli, Dunedin North MP Dr David Clark says.
Dr Clark was ''uncomfortable'' with the process to determine
the provider of a new mega helpline, which he said looked set
to favour Australian-owned provider Medibank Health Solutions
The Ministry of Health is combining seven helplines into one,
and switched from a regular tender process to one that
involves working with would-be providers behind closed doors.
The National Poisons Centre is included in the proposal,
despite its argument it should remain a stand-alone service
because of its unique role.
''It makes me uncomfortable, and should make taxpayers wary
of the process, especially when it appears [the Ministry of
Health is] not acting in New Zealand's best interest overall.
''My understanding is that Medibank will only take the
[calls] they want, and then they will refer the hard ones on
to the poisons centre.
''Medibank has indicated to existing providers that it
intends to cherry-pick the easy helpline calls and refer the
more difficult calls - or those from paramedics, ambulance
officers and emergency departments - on to the National
Dr Clark said this would leave the University of Otago
supporting the poisons centre's database without adequate
''If the database is not maintained to its present standard,
it will become an unviable proposition.
''Otago University currently provides a heavy subsidy to the
National Poisons Centre. It is hard to imagine them carrying
more cost to support a lower quality model with the risks
Medibank general manager Andrea Pettett said when contacted
she could not comment because of the negotiations.
''I would like to, but I can't,'' she said.
National Poisons Centre director Dr Wayne Temple said he
could not comment at this stage.
Asked for an update on the process, a Ministry of Health
spokesman said the ministry could not comment during the
procurement process, as it could compromise commercial
The new helpline is to start in the middle of next year.