New system brings delays

A backlog of older people are waiting for needs assessments because of delays in implementing a new computer system in the South.

Southern District Health Board mental health and community services (Otago) general manager Elaine Chisnall said the waiting list had reduced to 482, from about 700 two months ago.

The issue affected older people in Otago and Southland.

The SDHB has been gradually implementing a new system called InterRai for more than a year - the last DHB to move from a paper-based system to a computer system.

Implementation has been more difficult than expected.

Seen as a big step forward, the electronic system makes needs assessment more comprehensive and provides opportunities for linkages with other health providers.

Ms Chisnall said reasons for the delay included problems with the Canterbury-based server, IT issues, staff training time, and computer assessments taking more time.

"The host server and local IT issues have been resolved and all staff on the six sites have completed their initial training.

"As staff become more used to the InterRai tool, the time taken to complete an assessment has reduced."

Increased referrals were exacerbating the problem, and were being monitored.

Complaints raised by the Public Service Association last year relating to staff training were not a factor, Ms Chisnall said in her written response to the Otago Daily Times.

"All staff have met the health professional requirements to become a trained assessor and have completed the appropriate training."

Urgent and complex referrals were given priority, she said.

"Those waiting longest are people who already have services in place ... or they have a non-complex need," Ms Chisnall said.

"The longer waiting times for people in hospital settings can lead to a delay in discharge, therefore every effort has been made to ensure any delays are kept to a minimum."

At last week's hospitals' advisory committee meeting, Otago chief operating officer Vivian Blake told members the issue would take up to six months to resolve.



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