Systems crash puts hospitals in chaos

AMANDA PARKINSON AND WILMA MCCORKINDALE
Last updated 05:00 26/02/2014

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Lab results had to be faxed, at least one patient was transferred and staff reverted to paper-based systems as the impact of a district-wide computer malfunction continued to be felt at southern hospitals yesterday.

But health board bosses say systems are back up and running and they will investigate what caused the crash.

A server crash on Monday took down internal communications for 36 hours, with hospital staff having to resort to old-school manual systems.

Staff were able to access email communications at 3pm yesterday. Patient records and lab results had been functional since 1pm on Monday.

Southern District Health Board medical director of patient services Richard Bunton said the district-wide failure had created chaos for staff at Southland, Queenstown and Dunedin hospitals.

"It just happened this was at a time when the hospital [Dunedin] is particularly busy, so that added to frustration," he said.

Dr Bunton had earlier said some elective surgeries might have had to be postponed as a result of the computer problems, but yesterday he said "to my knowledge" none were delayed or cancelled.

Radiation and oncology therapies, which required hi-tech services, had some interference, and one oncology patient had been transferred to Christchurch for radiation, but that "was about patient convenience, not risk".

When asked what the cost of the server crash could be, Dr Bunton said he did not know.

The Southland Times tried to contact several people at the health board to ask the same question, but none of the executive staff were made available for interviews.

But veteran district board member Richard Thomson said while he was not sure what had been affected, he believed there could be extra costs.

"Catching up could result in additional costs, it's just going to depend on how far behind we get."

The glitch was caused by an information router failing, for reasons the Southern DHB could not explain.

Southern DHB communications and marketing chief executive Steve Addison said the health board would conduct a formal review into what caused the crash.

The server failure was not related to the same issues that caused almost 4000 women's mammogram records to be lost, he said.

Southern District Health Board chairman Joe Butterfield was again unavailable for comment.

The saga overshadowed Prime Minister John Key's visit to Dunedin Hospital to officially open its new neo-natal ward.

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