Memorandums of Understanding between NSW Health and Communist China may have exposed highly sensitive information about Australian medical research and innovation.
The MOU was signed between NSW and the Guangdong Health and Family Planning Commission on the final day of a three-day trade mission to China in 2017 by Premier Berejiklian and NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research Brad Hazzard
Mr Hazzard accompanied Premier Berejiklian to high-level business meetings with health departments and hospitals known to have strong affiliations to the Chinese Communist Party.
Between December 7-8, Premier Berejiklian and Mr Hazzard met with CapitalBio — the industrialisation platform of CapitalBio Corporation and National Engineering Research Center for Beijing Biochip Technology — where they discussed “potential partnerships” between NSW Health and the Chinese health-tech behemoth.
Premier Berejiklian and Mr Hazzard are said to have engaged in further high-level meetings with hospital officials from the Hong Kong-Shenzhen Hospital, which is known for supporting and conducting research for Chinese and foreign scientific research institutions and enterprises.
Chinese Communist Party state-run media organisation Xinhua reported at the time that the MOU between NSW Health and China would “bolster innovation and cultural ties” in the NSW healthcare sector.
Premier Berejiklian’s trip came one year after former NSW Minister for Health and Medical Research Jillian Skinner signed a highly controversial Memorandum of Understanding between NSW Ministry of Health and Shandong Province’s Health and Family Planning Commission.
Ms Skinner had travelled to China in April 2016 on a trade mission with a delegation of 26 Australian representatives including government officials, health professionals, and researchers.
The trip was to “facilitate cooperation” between NSW and Communist China in the area of medical research (such as the conduct of clinical trials) and establish “formal linkages with the peer public hospital in NSW”.
In her travel report Ms Skinner claimed the purpose of her trip was to build and strengthen commercial partnerships with China—”a core objective of the NSW Government’s China Strategy”.
Ms Skinner also met with the Vice Governor of Shandong Province and the Director-General from Health and Family Planning Commission of Shandong Province to discuss future cooperation and investment opportunities, including early negotiations to formalise opportunities to collaborate through the Memorandum of Understanding.
Minister Skinner engaged the Chinese government sector with the aim of entering into formal agreements to support long term cooperation in areas of common interest and mutual benefit.
The MOU included a “special relationship” between Qilu Hospital and the Westmead Hospital in Western Sydney.
The two hospitals were identified in the MOU as “Friendship Hospitals” that would progress shared interests through “facilitated exchange”.
Westmead Hospital and Qilu Hospital agreed to a number of shared interests including:
- Facilitating the exchange of personnel for the purposes of training, education, and knowledge exchange on best practice approaches to clinical care and health services management.
- Developing the specialist medical workforce, including consideration of exchanges in surgical training in advanced and complex surgical procedures 2 through clinical practice training opportunities in China and rotating training positions in Sydney.
- Developing clinical leadership in health service delivery through participation in relevant university education programs, and through exchange and placements.
- Developing administrative management and leadership expertise through participation in relevant university programs, and through exchange and placements.
- Supporting the development of evidence based approaches to public health through identifying opportunities to participate in the NSW Biostatistics Training Program.
Through the “Friendship” agreement, the NSW Ministry of Health discussed the establishment of an Advanced Health Executive Program at Westmead Hospital.
Under the MOU, the program would include an understanding of:
1. How Westmead Hospital integrates research, education and training to inform and improve clinical services.
2. The interface between hospital, community and primary care services to improve the continuum of clinical care and minimise the need for hospitalisation.
3. Effective hospital management practices to optimise the quality and cost benefit of services.
Australia contracted its first case of Covid-19 in April 2020 at Westmead Hospital — the principal referral hospital for western Sydney.
The controversial hospital was the epicentre of the 2021 NSW Delta Variant outbreak — an outbreak that was responsible for Sydney entering what became one of the longest Stage 4 lockdown periods in the world.