Chinese Government owned company buys stake in Australian health provider GenesisCare
A CHINESE state-owned company whose former chair was expelled from the Communist Party for corruption has bought a stake in Australia’s largest cancer and cardiac care service.
If approved, the purchase would mean a company owned by the Chinese Government will now have access to the personal health information of thousands of Australians.
GenesisCare treats more than 26,000 Australians a year, employs 1,400 people and has 125 clinics that include places like St Vincent’s and Flinders hospitals.
It is Australia’s largest provider of oncology, cardiology and sleep treatment and also operates in Spain and the UK.
The Foreign Investment Review Board has to decide whether the Chinese government-owned business together with doctors and Macquarie Bank can acquire between 50.01 and up to 74 per cent of the business.
The former chair of China Resources Song Lin was expelled from the Communist party last year for crimes including embezzlement according to China’s anti-graft watchdog.
The businessman was accused of taking bribes, using public funds for personal expenses like playing golf and was an adulterer, the ruling Communist Party’s Central Commission.
Another senior executive was also accused of similar crimes by the corruption the watchdog.
And, in April a third China Resources senior executive went on trial accused of taking bribes worth over $441,000.
Privacy Foundation spokesman Bernard Robertson-Dunn says the China Resources investment in Australian health services is concerning.
“Yes this is a concern. Our advice would be the government and the privacy commissioner should look at this very carefully,” Mr Robertson-Dunn said.
“They are providing a service, if the patient goes to them, the service may be given access to their electronic health record,” he said.
“The patient and the patient’s general practitioner could have a whole lot of information on that record,” he said.
A spokesman for China Resources told News Corp GenesisCare would remain a management and doctor run company.
“China Resources will hold a minority of Board seats in GenesisCare, the spokesman said.
“Electronic Medical Records or patient data on Australian patients will continue to be
securely stored in specialised high security data centres,” it said.
“China Resources Group recognises the importance of integrity and trust in running a global organisation across healthcare and other sectors and will not tolerate unethical conduct,” the spokesman said.
“The group will always act swiftly if any of its employees fail to adhere to the high standards of professional conduct we set for ourselves, as was the case with our former chairman, Song Lin and former vice-general manager.”
A spokesperson for the Treasurer said the Government does not comment on individual FIRB cases before it for decision making.
“The Treasurer has the ability to impose conditions on foreign investment transactions, if required, to address concerns about the protection of sensitive data,” the spokesperson said.
“The Treasurer has previously imposed such conditions on similar investments within the healthcare sector.”
In a statement GenesisCare said the expansion plans were supported by the recently struck Free Trade Agreement between Australia and China.
“This is a strategic partnership designed to use Australian expertise and technology to improve healthcare in new markets, including China, and to do so from an Australian base,” GenesisCare Chairman, David Vaux said.
“Our day to day clinical independence, clinical management committees and organisational structure will continue as it does today,” Mr Vaux said.