South Australia’s Health Minister Jack Snelling has revealed the list of hospitals next in line to receive the notorious EPAS patient records system under the state’s $421 million metropolitan rollout.
Despite the headaches caused by the electronic patient administration system (EPAS) over the past five years, Snelling told budget estimates this week he was confident the installation at the Lyell McEwin Hospital and Flinders Medical Centre in Adelaide’s suburbs would “probably go pretty smoothly”.
His comments come despite a concession that the health department will almost certainly have to go back to the state treasury in coming years to beg for more money to complete the late-running project.
“[It’s] no secret—that we expect that over the next 10 years we will have to go back to budget for supplementary funding. We do not think we are going to be able to do it within the $421 million envelope that has been provided,” Snelling said.
He estimated that EPAS had about $180 million left in its coffers for a rollout to all of SA’s metropolitan hospitals - a deployment that was meant to be completed two years ago.
The system has now gone live or partially live in seven health sites, the latest being the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which has managed to switch on the new software with little to no drama.
But its biggest challenge is still to come, with the system due to go live in the new Royal Adelaide Hospital next year. The nRAH implementation is expected to go ahead despite doubts raised by the auditor-general in May that it wouldn’t be ready.
Work on the EPAS project over the coming financial year is set to cost roughly $30 million, most of which will go towards the Royal Adelaide Hospital rollout.
The Flinders Medical Centre should provide an easier task for the hundreds of health workers assigned to the EPAS scheme. The 580-bed teaching hospital aligned to Flinders University is already hooked up to some EPAS modules in select service areas, although it is limited to viewing patient data. The 380-bed acute care Lyell McEwin hospital doesn’t have this same head start.
Snelling admitted that for every day that passes beyond the original EPAS deadline, licence fees for legacy health systems the government had hoped to decommission by now eat into the estimated savings benefits that originally backed the EPAS business case.
However, he said recent successes gave him hope the scheme’s fortunes could be turned around.
“Given that the Queen Elizabeth Hospital rollout has gone so well, it may well be that we are able now to accelerate the rollout to other hospitals," he said.