Bunkle demands probe into SMS buy

Alliance health spokeswoman Phillida Bunkle has called on the parliamentary health select committee to probe the Shared Medical Systems (SMS) computer system bought by Capital Coast Health. Capital Coast Health CEO Leo Mercer insists the new system is 'vastly superior to our previous paper-based system, [which] was fraught with possible human error' and that 'it is unfortunate that some at Capital Coast Health appear to be using the media to damage public perception'.

Alliance health spokeswoman Phillida Bunkle has called on the parliamentary health select committee to probe the cost and effectiveness of the Shared Medical Systems (SMS) computer system bought by Capital Coast Health.

Bunkle asked for an investigation into the system after a recent article in the Wellington Evening Post published comments by Capital Coast doctors. These comments should not be ignored, she says. On April 22 the Post quoted anonymous Capital Coast Health staff members saying patients were waiting hours and even days to get test results. The paper also noted staff reports that the laboratory has reverted to the old system because of delays in entering patient information in the new system.

"I have heard complaints from urology, pathology and internal medicine and concern is obviously widespread," says Bunkle.

In a faxed response to Computerworld, Capital Coast Health chief executive Leo Mercer insists the new system is "vastly superior to our previous paper-based system, [which] was fraught with possible human error". Installation, he says, is only two-thirds complete. "It is normal in a significant project that some aspects will not go entirely smoothly and that some people will resist change. It is unfortunate that some at Capital Coast Health appear to be using the media to damage public perception ... rather than use our internal forums to address any concerns," he says.

These concerns are not new, however. Questions about the purchase of SMS systems by both Capital Coast and Health Waikato (for $26 million and $10 million respectively) were raised by the New Zealand Nurses Organisation last year, and at least two Health Waikato senior executives resigned in protest at the decision. The Waikato purchase is currently being studied by the Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit, but unit chief executive Chris Russell says he can only look at the financial purchase, not the operational effectiveness.

"Our job is to ensure that shareholders' money is being invested wisely, and that's the extent of our powers."

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