Hospitals face hopeless task as Y2K looms

Hospitals straining for year 2000 compliance are so threatened by lack of funding and co-ordination that one CHE is not doing anything. At a Y2K conference in Sydney last week, United leader Peter Dunne told of a major CHE senior manager saying his agency was in no position to invest any funds in Y2K compliance because of funding restrictions. Dunne said the manager had decided to wait for a 'silver bullet' to cure its ills.

Hospitals straining for year 2000 compliance are so threatened by lack of funding and co-ordination that one CHE is not doing anything.

At a Y2K conference in Sydney last week, United leader Peter Dunne told of a major CHE senior manager saying his agency was in no position to invest any funds in Y2K compliance because of funding restrictions. Dunne did not name the CHE in question but said the manager was waiting for "the silver bullet" which someone was bound to invent and which the CHE would simply purchase when it became available. "That," he said, "would be the best use of the CHE's scarce resources."

When Computerworld contacted the Health Funding Authority to ask whether CHEs had been given extra funding for the problem or whether they had to resort to existing budgets, a spokesperson said it was not up to the HFA. He referred the question to the Crown Company Monitoring and Advisory Unit (CCMAU) which advises and monitors the CHEs on behalf of the Ministry of Health. A CCMAU spokesperson said the unit could not comment to the media but that it was likely the question would have to be referred back to the CHEs. Chief executive Andrew Weeks was unable to comment before Computerworld went to press.

There are 23 crown health enterprises looking after nearly 100 facilities around New Zealand and all are working on the problem to some degree. Strangely, there is no formal co-operation between CHEs on the issue.

Alan Dougall, Y2K project supervisor at South Auckland Healthcare, says it is disappointing that the government hasn't taken a stronger initiative in setting up the appropriate framework and that each CHE has to go through the same process in parallel. He points out that the government has only just set up any sort of infrastructure with the appointment of a Y2K task-force.

A director on South Auckland's board told Computerworld that the CHE is particularly worried about medical equipment with embedded CPUs.

Auckland Heathcare -— which includes Auckland, Greenlane, National Women's, Starship Children's and National Women's hospitals — and the Sutherland Unit are also looking at year 2000 issues in clinical equipment, information systems and building services (such as lifts and air conditioning).

Auckland Healthcare IT manager Cyril Snow says the project has been running for nine months. "We've got a few systems that we know are not compliant, and we've got plans in place for each those — like, for example, upgrading Oracle Financials to 10.7 in October."

Auckland Healthcare clinical engineer Douglas Blomfield, who is part of the project team, says some of the clinical equipment the team found wasn't compliant included defibrillators and -patient-monitoring devices such as ECG machines.

North Shore Hospital's year 2000 project is not being run by the IT department. Company secretary Keith Ferry is in charge and Bob George, who is in charge of disaster recovery, is Y2K project manager. Being newer than many of its counterparts, the hospital is not finding compliance in clinical equipment to be a major problem. Chris Dever, Manawatu Healthcare's IS manager, is looking at the CHE's IT systems while another manager is taking care of embedded hardware.

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