SA Health appeal to avoid hospital EDs unless urgent after computer crash

SA Health’s chief executive has urged people to stay away from hospital emergency departments unless they have “serious” health concerns, due to a computer systems outage causing major disruption to hospital record systems.

Apr 19, 2023, updated Apr 20, 2023
Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

Photo: Tony Lewis/InDaily

In a statement issued late Wednesday afternoon, SA Health chief executive Dr Robyn Lawrence said hospital staff were using paper reporting and telephone services to manage patients across most public hospitals.

She said SA Health was working as quickly as possible to restore its electronic reporting system, but in the meantime, people with non-urgent healthcare needs should avoid going to hospital emergency departments.

“South Australians should always present to hospital in an emergency and for any serious matters, but we also ask people to please consider other options at this time for non-urgent care,” Lawrence said.

“Our EDs will always give priority to the most urgent cases.”

It comes after an “electrical incident” at a state government data centre at Glenside earlier today caused computer system outages across multiple government departments.

The incident impacted the centre’s cooling system, with power not expected to be restored until later tonight.

“SA Health ICT systems are continuing to be impacted by the Glenside Data Centre electrical incident and business continuity plans have been enacted at all hospitals,” Lawrence said.

“We are working as quickly as possible to restore all impacted systems but it will take time and some of our processes may be slower in the meantime so we are asking patients and families to please be patient.

“We will be working throughout the night to restore all impacted systems as quickly as possible.”

People who require non-life-threatening healthcare can contact Healthdirect on 1800 022 222, the National Home Doctor Service on 13 74 25, or visit their pharmacy or GP.

They can also seek help from the Child and Adolescent Virtual Care Service between 9am to 9pm.

A SA Health spokesperson this afternoon said triple zero operations had not been impacted by the computer system outage.

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They said SA Health was not aware of any adverse clinical outcomes.

SA Health’s electronic reporting systems store a person’s medical history and can be accessed by doctors, nurses and paramedics.

In a statement earlier this afternoon, the government’s chief information officer Dr Eva Balan-Vnuk said “mitigation measures” had been put in place to respond to the electrical incident, with power expected to be resorted to the data centre’s cooling system overnight.

“No significant adverse outcomes have been identified however some systems may be operating slower than usual,” she said.

Australian Nursing and Midwifery Federation SA branch secretary Elizabeth Dabars said the union’s members were experiencing “heightened workloads and less than satisfactory access to patient records and patient facing information”.

She said electronic records were critical to patient safety and welfare.

“Patient flow is also being by affected by restrictions on patient information including bed availability and other points of care,” she said.

“These outages will place an increased burden and on an already stressed system, which will ultimately impact on patient access such as ramping.

“We are seeking to work closely with members, hospital administration and the Department to put more effective manual workarounds in place and support members as they struggle with these issues.”

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