An internal SA Health memo, obtained by InDaily, suggests only the administrative functions of the embattled IT program, and some clinical functions, will be activated when the multi-billion-dollar hospital opens late this year.
An internal newsletter, sent to Central Adelaide Local Health Network staff from CEO Julia Squire, says EPAS is only expected to be fully functional at the new hospital by May 2017 – or “earlier if possible”.
“It is expected that the new RAH will use the full administrative and clinical EPAS functionality for all new admissions by May 2017 and earlier if possible,” the note says.
Health Minister Jack Snelling told InDaily in late 2014, and reiterated in 2015, that he was confident the program would be ready in time for the opening date, despite revelations in an Auditor-General’s report that SA Health was drawing up contingency plans in case EPAS was not fully functional by then.
“We paused the rollout of EPAS at other hospitals to ensure we had it ready for the opening of the new Royal Adelaide Hospital, and we are confident that it will be ready in time for the opening of the hospital,” Snelling told InDaily in 2014.
Doctors at several hospitals have raised repeated concerns about EPAS, including that it is too slow to use safely in emergencies and that it caused threats to patient safety.
According to a 2014 Auditor-General’s report, more than 4,800 separate defects had been detected with EPAS since the program began.
SA Health announced last month that EPAS would be implemented at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital by June this year.
A spokesperson for Snelling told InDaily this morning that “as we have said all along, EPAS will be used at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital from day one”.
The spokesperson said that bringing forward the implementation of EPAS at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital would “allow our staff who work across both sites, to become familiar with the new system ahead of the opening of the new RAH,” a decision he described as the result of “extensive consultation with our clinicians”.
“Patient safety and staff well-being is always our priority and this approach will ensure as much as possible that staff are equipped to use EPAS at the new Royal Adelaide Hospital.”
The 2014 Auditor-General’s report revealed that, in the absence of a fully functional EPAS, the “impact on the proposed model of care … is unknown”.
“Any alternative solution is expected to require modified processes and manual workarounds (and) central paper record storage at clinics and wards and daily transport for paper records will be required,” the report reads.
SA Health would not reveal the cost of transporting paper records, as suggested in the report, but instead: “the logistics of how existing medical records are going to be managed at the new RAH is currently being worked through, with input from clinicians”.
SA Health also would not reveal whether it had any estimate what the delay to the EPAS rollout would cost.
The new Royal Adelaide Hospital had been due to open in July this year, but the opening date itself was pushed back to November 2016 – a delay attributed to a dispute with the hospital’s builders – costing more than $30 million.
Spokesperson for doctors’ union, the South Australian Salaried Medical Officers Association, Bernadette Mulholland told InDaily “the association is not surprised that there is a delay in implementation (of EPAS) given the issues that medical officers have raised”.
“Medical officers have advised us they have to work around EPAS,” she said.
“It’s a slow service.”
Premier Jay Weatherill told an Adelaide audience yesterday that Miya – an e-health system developed by award-winning SA technology company Alcidion, which was rejected by SA Health in 2014 as a “fix” for EPAS – was “a thing of the future” that was generating “a great deal of interest”.
EPAS is currently active at eight SA Health sites, including Noarlunga Hospital, the Repatriation General Hospital and parts of Flinders Medical Centre.
InDaily contacted the Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation for comment.
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