Correspondence between Ms Veronica Hancock and Prof Jane Burns re "comprehensive health assessments" for tafenoquine and mefloquine veterans
From: Stuart McCarthy
Dear Department of Veterans' Affairs,
In January 2017, the Minister for Veterans Affairs rejected a proposal to fund a pilot outreach, rehabilitation and research program for Australian veterans adversely affected by the neurotoxic quinoline antimalarial drugs tafenoquine and mefloquine, based on written advice from the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) that "existing support services are adequate."[1,2]
On 4 March 2019, Ms Veronica Hancock (DVA Assistant Secretary, Health Policy Branch), wrote to AVM Tracy Smart (ADF Surgeon General):
"Dylan [Kurtz] called from the Minister’s office this afternoon to advise that following discussions with Minister and PMO, Minister is intending to make an early announcement of the mefloquine Budget measure, at the same time as tabling the Government response to the Senate mefloquine inquiry. The Budget measure is a $2.1 million commitment ..."
On 15 March 2019, the Minister announced $2.1 million in funding for "comprehensive health assessments" for the affected veterans, to be implemented from 1 July 2019.
Without any representation from those affected, the health needs of tafenoquine and mefloquine veterans were discussed at the Open Arms (DVA) National Advisory Committee (NAC) meetings of 29-30 November 2018 and 28-29 March 2019.
NAC Chair Professor Jane Burns is a senior employee of BUPA-Australia. The DVA contract for the "comprehensive health assessments" was awarded to BUPA-Australia in mid-2019, without tender.
On 2 September 2019, Dr Victoria Ross from the Department of Defence raised serious concerns about the proposed program:
"How does continuity of care factor in? If this assessment is done by a BUPA provider, will they continue on as the veteran’s GP? The primary issue is that these veterans are not engaged with or don’t trust the system. There is a risk that their care may become even more fragmented."
In accordance with the FOI Act, I hereby request to be provided with correspondence between Ms Veronica Hancock and any directors, executives or employees of BUPA-Australia (including but not limited to Professor Jane Burns) discussing the health of veterans affected by tafenoquine or mefloquine, from 1 July 2018 to 1 July 2019, including but not limited to: letters, emails, memos, briefings, text messages, file notes, records of conversation and/or financial acquittals for travel or other expenses.
I request that the standard processing fees for rhis FOI request be waived, on the grounds that I am experiencing financial hardship and this is a matter of significant public interest.
1. Rachel Riley, "Pilot outreach program rejected," Townsville Bulletin, 10 February 2017. https://www.townsvillebulletin.com.au/ne...
2. Department of Veterans Affairs, Ministerial Response - McCarthy, Stuart - Quinoline Trial, 20 January 2017.
3. Email from Ms Veronica Hancock to AVM Tracy Smart, "MO advice re mefloquine announcement and govt response," 4 March 2019. https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/6...
4. Minister for Veterans Affairs, Media release: Government commits $2.1 million to anti-malarial initiative, 15 March 2019. http://minister.dva.gov.au/media_release...
5. Open Arms, Minutes: National Advisory Committee meeting, 29-30 November 2018. https://nginx-openarms-master.govcms.ama...
6. Open Arms, Minutes: National Advisory Committee meeting, 28-29 March 2019. https://nginx-openarms-master.govcms.ama...
7. Email from Dr Victoria Ross to Dr Cath Kelaher et al, "Prep for DVA co-design workshop," 2 September 2019. https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/6...
Department of Veterans' Affairs
Dear Mr McCarthy
Freedom of Information Request: FOI 34928
I refer to your request for access to documents held by the Department of
Veterans’ Affairs (Department) under the Freedom of Information Act 1982
(FOI Act). Your request was received by the Department on 14 March 2020
and was made in the following terms:
…In accordance with the FOI Act, I hereby request to be provided with
correspondence between Ms Veronica Hancock and any directors, executives
or employees of BUPA-Australia (including but not limited to Professor
Jane Burns) discussing the health of veterans affected by tafenoquine or
mefloquine, from 1 July 2018 to 1 July 2019, including but not limited to:
letters, emails, memos, briefings, text messages, file notes, records of
conversation and/or financial acquittals for travel or other expenses…
In accordance with section 15(5)(b) of the FOI Act, the due date for a
decision on your request is 13 April 2020.
When the processing period may be extended or suspended
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