Patients left to wait after hospital tech crash

DOCTORS and nurses across the state scrambled to switch to paper charts and patient waits blew out following the collapse of a new electronic medical record system in Queensland Health's latest bungle.

The department has now admitted its much-touted Integrated Electronic Medical Record (ieMR) system crashed at every one of the 14 hospitals using it for three hours on Tuesday afternoon after earlier playing down "intermittent login issues" caused by a "planned vendor upgrade".

Staff have complained of chaotic scenes and blown-out patient wait times as emergency department workers scrambled to switch back to paper charts to deal with the log-on and time-out errors that dominoed through their computer network.

Doctor and nurses switched to paper charts after a system upgrade took out Queensland’s Integrated Electronic Medical Record (ieMR) system.
Doctor and nurses switched to paper charts after a system upgrade took out Queensland’s Integrated Electronic Medical Record (ieMR) system.

Impacted hospitals included Queensland Children's Hospital, the Princess Alexandra and Queensland Elizabeth II (QEII) hospitals, and the Logan, Redland, Ipswich, Gold Coast University, Sunshine Coast University and Townsville hospitals.

It's the latest in a string of problems impacting Queensland Health's IT projects, with the a brand new $135 million hospital purchasing system, S/4HANA, causing havoc across public hospitals for weeks after its beleaguered launch in August.

One source at Redland Hospital said patients could not be properly triaged at emergency, there were delays identifying Category One and Two patients and wait times were blown out as doctors were forced to order scans through slower manual processes.

All the time, paramedics continued to offload patients, refusing to ramp, the source said.

"It's chaos here in ED. So unsafe," the source said on Tuesday night. "We don't know where the patients are located or who is looking after who."

The Courier-Mail has been told ieMR began to shut down incrementally from 1pm on Tuesday, with all computers knocked out by 3pm.

However, an email to all staff confirming the "major incident" wasn't sent until 5pm.

It's understood issues were resolved shortly after 6pm.

Queensland Health has refused to answer questions on how a scheduled "planned vendor upgrade" managed to take out the network for three hours, nor whether any investigation has been launched to ensure it doesn't happen again.

It also did not comment on staff concerns that the situation had led to chaos.

Instead, a statement said: "Standard contingency plans were enacted and this ensured there was no impact on patient safety during this time."

"Queenslanders can trust that we have robust protocols in place to ensure our contingency and risk procedures work."

Opposition health spokeswoman Ros Bates said it was more evidence the project needed to be stopped.

"Doctors have warned these digital failures are putting patient care at risk," she said.

"Labor need to stop the cover-up and be honest with Queenslanders about how severe and widespread the IT debacle is.

"These stuff-ups shouldn't happen in Queensland."

The ieMR rollout to Metro North and Darling Downs hospital and health services - which include The Prince Charles and Royal Brisbane and Women's hospitals - has been delayed until 2021 following a review of a Queensland Audit Office report into the digital hospital system.