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Hospital waiting times unknown

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Emergency department waiting times for Noarlunga Hospital have not been published for months.

The data has been excluded from all state-wide and national data collections because of concerns about its accuracy.

SA Health would not say why it doubts the accuracy of the data.

Noarlunga Hospital is the only major hospital in South Australia using the controversial $422 million dollar electronic health records system – the Enterprise Patient Administration System (EPAS).

SA Health has not responded to InDaily‘s enquiries about whether EPAS is being used to process waiting times data at Noarlunga Hospital, or whether any problems with the system had caused the accuracy concerns.

The data would reveal if the introduction of EPAS has improved or exacerbated waiting times at the hospital.

InDaily reported in May that doctors at the Port Augusta hospital had refused to use EPAS in February because, they claimed, it slowed down clinical processes and threatened patient safety.

The rollout of the system across the state was curtailed by the state government in June.

South Australian Salaried Medical Officers’ Association spokesperson David Pope said waiting times data for Noarlunga Hospital had disappeared from the SA Health dashboard during the introduction of EPAS at the hospital in August.

“It is concerning that there is no waiting time data with the introduction of this new system,” Pope said.

“The public aren’t able to be aware of what’s truly going on.”

Australian Medical Association SA President Patricia Montanaro said that if there had been any blowout in waiting times, that information needed to be released.

“ED waiting times are a vital and critical indicator of the ‘health’ of the system,” Montanaro said in a statement.

“We are all waiting for the data on EPAS productivity.

“The principle of an integrated electronic health record is a laudable aim. The question is getting it right, and that means that issues raised need to be heard and addressed.

“Good decisions require good data – that is how we can track how we are doing and where there may be problems. If there are problems with waiting time data for Noarlunga  –  or other hospitals – that is a concern.

“If there has been a blowout in waiting times (or other productivity issues) and this is not improving by now, we all need to be aware of this and working together to fix it.”

EPAS is budgeted to cost $10.5 million this financial year.

The electronic system must work effectively for the $1.85 billion new Royal Adelaide Hospital to function.

The hospital had been designed without sufficient space to house all patient records in paper form.

A spokesperson for SA Health told InDaily in a statement: “As part of regular process, SA Health monitors all waiting time data at South Australia’s public hospitals.”

“…We will continue to work with the Noarlunga Hospital staff and the EPAS team to address any issues of waiting time both pre and post-EPAS.”

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