Former senator turned state party leader Nick Xenophon has called for use of SA Health’s beleaguered Enterprise Patient Administration System to be paused, claiming an investigation into the electronic health record used throughout public hospitals and health care providers was required.
Releasing his SA-Best party’s health policies today, Xenophon said concerns had been raised by clinicians about the safety and functionality of the platform.
“Very serious concerns have been expressed about major operational flaws that risk lives,” Xenophon said in a statement, according to InDaily.
“Medical and IT professionals alike have questioned whether the EPAS is fit-for-purpose – or indeed, workable at all.”
Xenophon, who is announcing candidates and policies in the lead up to the South Australian elections on 17 March, went so far as to suggest the statewide EHR is failing.
“SA-Best has serious concerns that the EPAS is failing and, if so, it is failing sick South Australians that so vitally need it to function properly. From what we are hearing, there have been too many near-misses with EPAS.”
SA Health figures claim over 1.29 million inpatient, outpatient and emergency department visits have been registered in EPAS, with more than 2.2 million medication orders and 1.8 million pathology and medical imaging orders placed via the system. The department also says drug errors have “significantly lessened” as a result of the transition from paper to electronic records.
But in August the state’s AMA claimed EPAS was not fit for purpose following a survey of medical staff. A third of respondents reported that EPAS was directly responsible for “near misses” while nearly 20 per cent said the system caused adverse patient outcomes. Serious errors included charting medications for the wrong patient, critical delays in obtaining records on surgical patients and pathology errors such as mixing patients and specimens. Respondents also found the system slow and difficult to use.
“Until we have definitive proof the system is operating at 100 per cent functionality, it should be paused and reviewed pending a thorough investigation,” Xenophon said.
He also voiced concerns about the more than $470 million spent on EPAS.
“We need to make sure we are not continuing to throw good money after bad.”
Meanwhile, a power failure at new Royal Adelaide Hospital that disrupted two operations last week has been blamed on generators running out of fuel.
SA health officials have launched an investigation into the 10-15 minute outage, which occurred while two of the six hospital generators were being tested. It was initially blamed on software failure.
SA Health chief Vicki Kaminski said two surgeries were underway at the time.
"We're deeply sorry for it. It's not what we would hope to do," she said.
In a stunning piece of bad luck for the government, Australian Medical Association SA President William Tam was mid-surgery when the power failure occurred.
"Whether it is for 10 minutes, 20, or more, in medicine we know that often every minute counts," Tam said.
"This glitch provides a warning about what can go wrong. We need to know that it won't happen again."