Australia’s Aspen Medical: A case study of healthcare privatisation

Hailed as an Australian business success story, the medical logistics company Aspen Medical provides a textbook example of a private company expanding at the expense of public health thanks to capitalist governments’ privatisation of healthcare.

Aspen Medical co-founder Glenn Keys (right) accepting the company’s induction into Australia Export Awards Hall of Fame in November 2021 (Image: Matthew Wilson@_matthewwilson)

On May 2, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) program “Four Corners” ran an exposé of the firm’s financial turnaround during 2020–21 on the back of government pandemic contracts totalling over $1 billion, awarded without public tender.

This followed years of promotion of Aspen by Liberal-National Coalition and Labor Party governments alike.

Aspen was founded in 2003 by former military flight test engineer Glenn Keys in partnership with his friend and medical doctor Andrew Walker. It rapidly developed into the emerging global market for healthcare logistics, while proclaiming “humanitarian” goals.

After leaving the military, Keys had joined defence start-up Aerospace Technology Services and later sold his stake in the company to major US military contractor Raytheon.

Visiting Britain in 2003, Keys realised an opportunity existed for Aspen in Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair’s plans to start privatising the National Health Service (NHS). Aspen tendered for a consultancy contract to review orthopaedic services. This soon led to a contract to reduce the NHS orthopaedic elective surgery waiting list in the north of England.

The Blair government had embarked on cost-cutting and implementing Tory-initiated “reforms” such as developing NHS “internal markets.” Private consultancies like Aspen were used to trail-blaze the carve-up.

At the same time, Aspen won a contract to provide health services in the Solomon Islands as part of the Australian government’s 2003 military intervention, branded as the Regional Assistance Mission to Solomon Islands (RAMSI.)

More than 2,000 Australian soldiers and police were deployed to the Pacific island state in a neo-colonial operation that involved taking over all key government functions, even health programs.

Keys said: “The Defence department was responsible for providing all the health services, but they saw it would be a long term project, and didn’t want to be there for that long, so tendered out the process. We beat off companies from across Europe and Asia. This was the first time the Australian government had outsourced services in an operational environment.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Previous post Insights on the Healthcare Cold Chain Logistics Global
Next post Mkango Announces Results of Definitive Feasibility Study for the Songwe Hill Rare Earths Project in Malawi – NPV of US$559.0 Million and IRR of 31.5%