SA Health role in PPE supply unclear, audit finds

The South Australian Auditor General has found aspects of SA Health’s PPE arrangements aren’t working effectively and need to be improved if the state wants to be prepared for emerging Covid-19 variants and future health emergencies.

Andrew Richardson

The report shows SA Health provided 37 million units of PPE from January 2020 to November 2021, including 18.2 million units to state government agencies, 14 million to aged care and 1.1 million to local government.

Between January and March 2020 demand or PPE increased by 59 per cent, with demand peaking in November 2021.

SA Health got a tick of approval for measures to supply stock in the event of overseas supply chain glitches.

South Australian company Detmold manufacturing was appointed in March 2020 as a local supplier of PPE including masks and respirators, enabling SA Health to meet internal demand and support demand from other agencies, community groups and external organisations, Auditor General Andrew Richardson said.

SA Health also got a thumbs up for engaging a consultant to perform a Covid-19 workplace review on behalf of the Commissioner for Public Sector Employment.

Lack of clarity

However, the audit found elements of the government’s planning, governance and distribution arrangements for PPE weren’t operating effectively.

It found a lack of clarity SA Health’s role in supplying PPE to the state, shortcomings in its stockpiling strategy and gaps in demand forecasting methodology.

“We found that SA Health’s roles and responsibilities for meeting the PPE supply needs of other SA government agencies and South Australia as a whole in a health emergency are unclear, including PPE stockpiling arrangements,” it says.

The auditor also found the department didn’t have an up-to-date strategic procurement model and identified gaps in governance reporting.

“This increases the risk that appropriate PPE supplies may not be readily available where and when needed as Covid-19 pandemic restrictions are progressively lifted, new Covid-19 variants such as the Omicron variant emerge and in any future health emergencies,” the report concludes.

Recommendations ‘generally accepted’

DHW Chief Executive Dr Christopher McGowan said recommendations for improvement had generally been accepted.

“The Covid-19 pandemic presented a number of challenges for health systems across the world, with PPE a key part of both the initial and ongoing response plan,” he said in a letter to the Auditor General.

“The procurement and supply chain management branch … on balance responded well to the increasing demands associated with the pandemic and continues to improve its systems and processes.”

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