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SA-Best wants EPAS investigated as Xenophon releases health policies

Politics

Nick Xenophon is calling for an immediate pause and investigation into the controversial electronic health records system EPAS, among a series of brief SA-Best health policy proposals released this morning.

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The Enterprise Patient Administration System was designed to replace paper with electronic records in public hospitals and health care settings across South Australia, and has been credited with reducing the frequency of medication errors.

However, doctors have repeatedly warned that the system slows down emergency carethreatens patient safety and blows out waiting lists.

Xenophon says he believes e-health records system had caused “too many near-misses” and needed to be investigated.

“Very serious concerns have been expressed about major operational flaws that risk lives,” Xenophon said in a statement.

“Medical and IT professionals alike have questioned whether the EPAS is fit-for-purpose – or indeed, workable at all.

“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.”

He said the party wanted proof the system was safe and functional.

“From what we are hearing, there have been too many near-misses with EPAS,” said Xenophon.

“Until we have definitive proof the system is operating at 100 per cent functionality, it should be paused and reviewed pending a thorough investigation.”

InDaily last year revealed the cost of the program had blown out from its latest budget by almost $50 million, to $471 million.

“The other concern we have with EPAS is that South Australian taxpayers have already spent over $470 million on EPAS – we need to make sure we are not continuing to throw good money after bad.”

In August, almost one in five medical staff using EPAS who responded to an Australian Medical Association survey blamed the system for “serious errors including charting medications for the wrong patient, critical delays in obtaining records on surgical patients and pathology errors such as mixing patients and specimens”.

However, SA Health figures show medication errors have reduced at sites where EPAS has been implemented.

Xenophon also released a series of brief SA-Best party policies on health this morning.

They include “no further bed closures”, the “reinstatement of acute and critical care and emergency support services at Modbury and Noarlunga”, “fast-tracking” physical upgrades to country hospitals and offering “real protection” for whistle-blowers within the health system.

Xenophon also reiterated SA-Best’s commitment to a royal commission into the entire South Australian healthcare system, “to look at every scandal, those that are already known, and those still hidden”.

But many of the proposals lack detail.

One of the policies is: “Find a workable solution for Labor’s broken promise for a co-located Women’s and Children’s Hospital.”

Further proposals include:

Meanwhile, the nurses’ union, the ANMF, has released a radio advertising campaign this morning accusing Xenophon of lacking health policies.

The adverts are narrated in a David Attenborough nature documentary style.

“We’re anxiously lying in wait, lenses poised at the ready, hoping to catch a first look at one of South Australia’s rarest species – the Nick Xenophon SA-Best health policy,” the narrator says.

“So little is known about this rare phenomenon that many consider it to be little more than folklore.

“With no clear plans and health funding making up around 30 per cent of our State’s budget, a vote for Nick Xenophon’s SA-Best party could spell the end for the health of South Australia.”

UPDATE: This afternoon the union put out a statement welcoming the release of the today’s policies and anticipating analysing them.

Meanwhile, SA Best is set to continue its roll-out of candidates, with Xenophon expected to make a play for the south-east seat of Mount Gambier. It’s likely anti-drug advocate Kate Amoroso will be confirmed as SA Best’s candidate for the seat in coming days, taking on former Liberal turned independent Troy Bell.

-Additional reporting by Tom Richardson

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