South Australian health minister Jack Snelling is refusing to buckle under legal pressure to move off an out-of-licence patient system used in the state’s regional hospitals.
Late last week Snelling told a budget estimates committee the supplier of the green-screen ‘CHIRON’ electronic patient administration system used by 12 of the state’s 75 health facilities has refused to keep selling the government licences for the legacy solution.
“It is true we are operating outside of the licence,” he admitted.
“But it is also true that our legal advice to the department is that we are within our rights to continue to operate the system.”
Last month CHIRON’s owner, Global Health, commenced legal proceedings against the SA government in the federal court, claiming a breach of contract and breach of copyright.
Global Health subsidiary Working Systems is seeking “relief by way of damages, declarations and a permanent injunction restraining the state from continuing to use CHIRON”.
SA Health’s CHIRON licences formally expired on March 31 this year. The state is the last remaining user of the 1980s product, which was superseded in 2003.
But the state is defending its use of the software on the grounds that certain exceptions written into the Copyright Act for crown use and public benefit, including by state governments, protected against normal copyright provisions.
Snelling said he expected court hearings to commence in the next couple of months.
The rural facilities using CHIRON fell outside the remit of the now-notorious electronic patient administration system (EPAS) upgrade that is still ongoing across the metropolitan regions.
With roughly 200 full-time staff currently focused on stabilising the delayed EPAS and getting it installed into the new Royal Adelaide Hospital before it opens next year, the government has had limited time focus on addressing the CHIRON headache.
Snelling said the government's long-term intention was to move the remaining regional sites to the Allscripts-provided EPAS, but there was currently no formal plan before cabinet to do so.
He also described the purpose of the litigation as purely commercial.
“The issues are completely with regard to the vendor wanting us to move off it for commercial reasons and, no surprise to anyone, they would be very, very keen for us to purchase their new system,” he told the estimates hearing.
Snelling also refused to directly respond to opposition leader Steven Marshall’s query about what would happen if the state government was to lose the court case and be forced to move off the system against its will.
“I’m not going to engage in speculation,” he said.