South Australian Health chief executive David Swan has confirmed a legal dispute has broken out between the department and its key eHealth implementation partner Allscripts.
Allscripts won the contract to implement the state health system’s mammoth electronic patient administration system (EPAS) in 2010, based on its Sunrise Enterprise 5.5 suite of clinical, access management and financial solutions. EPAS was designed to digitise and connect all South Australia’s hospitals.
But both parties have since struggled to overcome functionality issues with the billing module.
When quizzed about potential litigation from both sides back in October, Health Minister Jack Snelling said discussions had taken place but denied that either party had made a formal legal claim.
However, earlier this week, SA Health's Swan confirmed to the state’s Budget and Finance Committee that the agency had written to Allscripts to outline the department's claims for the delay in the billing system.
He also confirmed that Allscripts had written back with a counterclaim in the millions of dollars.
“It's still being worked through,” Swan said.
The two parties were scheduled to meet yesterday. The matter is not currently before the courts.
In an effort to diffuse the imagery of “lawyers at 40 paces” introduced by opposition health spokesman Rob Lucas, Swan stressed that there was a "maturity in discussion that is occurring between the parties to try to resolve that issue".
In June the project was halted in part due to SA revenue cuts from the Commonwealth Budget, and partly due to performance issues on the system's integration.
Snelling at the time said the government would take some time out to “have a bit of a think” about the future of the project.
Swan yesterday confirmed some staff reductions would need to take place within the EPAS team while the project was on hold but did not specify how many.
Work will continue, however, on installing EPAS in the Royal Adelaide Hospital, which will generate some urgency around the remediation of the contentious billing module.
“Essentially, the functionality issues we can deal with at small sites, like Noarlunga and the [Repatriation General Hospital], but once we go to a large site, particularly the Royal Adelaide Hospital, we have to address those functionality issues to ensure that we do not constrain the work environment for our staff," Swan said.
“At the moment, we are working through those issues with Allscripts."