New hospital booking system 'a disaster'

Dunedin Hospital. Photo: RNZ
Dunedin Hospital. Photo: RNZ
Patients are missing appointments and information is being lost due to a chaotic new booking system, staff at Dunedin Hospital warn.

An administration worker dubbed the system "a disaster", while a nurse said it had caused dangerous delays in patient care.

Health New Zealand Te Whatu Ora (HNZ) Southern introduced the new patient management system South Island Patient Information Care System (SIPICS) last November.

The administration worker, who did not wish to be named, said patient information was incomplete and was completely missing in some cases.

"A large number of patient phone numbers or addresses are wrong or missing, which means appointment details and appointment reminders are being sent to non-existent numbers or even worse, other people, which is a huge privacy breach."

The biggest risk was the missing data.

"My colleagues and I have had phone calls from patients asking when they will have appointments, only to find their waiting list information has completely disappeared from SIPICS.

"This means they are invisible to us."

Waiting lists were out of order and did not make sense.

Sometimes patients who had already been seen were being contacted for appointments.

The new system was also slow, with many more steps needed to complete even simple tasks, the staff member said.

Booking a new patient in the old system used to take up to 90 seconds, but now took up to five minutes — time that added up given the quantities they were dealing with.

"Administrative staff are frequently in tears and are having to work lots of overtime just to keep up with their day-to-day tasks."

They said they had raised their concerns with management and with the PSA union, as well as the IT department, without result.

IT had fobbed off management and seemed to be either unwilling or unable to help with the situation.

Staff requests to the department were often ignored, seeming to disappear into a black hole.

The introduction of the new system was unnecessary and was causing "no end of risk" to patients and clinicians.

Members of the New Zealand Nurses Organisation (NZNO) at Dunedin Hospital who also did not wish to be named supported the administration worker’s concerns.

One said the new system did not work properly when discharging patients who required a follow up appointment.

It would ask the worker to book the patient into a specific clinic, but would refuse to complete that part of the booking and discharge the patient anyway.

"Patients are missing their follow-up appointments as it is not getting linked into the system.

"This has been dangerous, and leading to a delay in patient care."

System lags were also routine.

Another NZNO member said when patient information was saved and refreshed it would often disappear or be stored in the notes for a completely different patient.

It also sometimes made the system revert to the patient notes from days ago.

"[This] is not only incredibly dangerous to patient safety, it is also taking up so much of nurses’ time."

Ward staff had reported the issues to IT on numerous occasions, but IT did not have the resources to anything about it, they said.

The PSA was unable to comment on the issue yesterday.

HNZ Southern did not respond to questions by the Otago Daily Times deadline.