Mur­ray’s HealthTap vis­its cost $45,608

Weekend Herald - - Bring On The Weekend - Natalie Akoorie

Ex­penses for for­mer Waikato District Health Board chief ex­ec­u­tive Dr Nigel Mur­ray show tens of thou­sands of dol­lars spent on travel as­so­ci­ated with HealthTap, the Amer­i­can com­pany that pow­ers the board’s strug­gling vir­tual health app SmartHealth.

The lat­est rev­e­la­tion in Mur­ray’s ex­penses scan­dal comes as the State Ser­vices Com­mis­sion yes­ter­day an­nounced for­mer Christchurch Earth­quake Re­cov­ery Au­thor­ity chief ex­ec­u­tive and deputy state ser­vices com­mis­sioner John Om­bler as the lead in­ves­ti­ga­tor in the SSC’s probe into Mur­ray’s spend­ing.

Mur­ray re­signed last month af­ter an in­quiry found he had made unau­tho­rised ex­penses. The board said he had agreed to re­pay the money.

Ex­pense re­ceipts show Mur­ray orig­i­nally spent $45,608 on in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic travel as­so­ci­ated with HealthTap and SmartHealth.

That in­cluded six trips to the Sil­i­con Val­ley in­ter­ac­tive health com­pany’s base in San Fran­cisco be­tween March 2015 and May 2017.

The DHB paid out $8929 for the March 2015 trip but re­duced the amount payable to $1488 af­ter it be­came clear that Mur­ray went to Canada for seven days in the mid­dle of the visit.

One of the trips in May this year cost $7615 for three days.

The $45,608 does not in­clude a fur­ther three trips to the United States and Canada that Mur­ray took in Septem­ber, Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber last year be­cause the DHB filed the ex­penses with a zero cost.

A spokes­woman said the cost for those trips, la­belled “pro­fes­sional de­vel­op­ment and com­ple­tion of re­search project” have been in­voiced to Mur­ray. The re­ceipts show they were not au­tho­rised.

Mur­ray’s rea­son for his in­volve­ment with the in­for­ma­tion sys­tems strat­egy, be­lieved to have cost as much as $17 mil­lion so far, is un­clear and ear­lier this year the DHB did not spec­ify his rea­son for the travel.

Sim­cock’s two vis­its in Novem­ber 2014 and April 2016 amounted to $8655 for “due dili­gence”.

It’s un­der­stood that in large or­gan­i­sa­tions like DHBs, the chief in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer is usu­ally re­spon­si­ble for all in­for­ma­tion tech­nol­ogy.

They in turn re­port to the chief ex­ec­u­tive.

But Mur­ray not only vis­ited the US hub at least six times, he also flew to Aus­tralia and other parts of New Zealand to pro­mote SmartHealth, an app which lets pa­tients talk to doc­tors, get health in­for­ma­tion and make ap­point­ments.

Mur­ray trav­elled de­spite the fact the DHB was al­ready work­ing with pri­mary health or­gan­i­sa­tion Pin­na­cle Mid­lands Health, to­ward shar­ing their sim­i­lar tele­health sys­tem be­fore Mur­ray was ap­pointed CEO.

He de­fended SmartHealth when it came un­der the mi­cro­scope in the me­dia and gave it promi­nence in his fore­word in the DHB’s 2015/16 an­nual re­port, say­ing he was “par­tic­u­larly proud” of SmartHealth.

The busi­ness case has never been re­leased pub­licly but the DHB will now re­view its con­tract with HealthTap for the app, which has failed to at­tract the tar­geted num­ber of users.

One of the trips in May this year cost $7615 for three days.

Nigel Mur­ray

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