Now Qld Health bungles e-health program


blog It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given the ongoing billion dollar disaster that is Queensland Health’s payroll systems overhaul, but news has emerged that the department is also suffering problems with its electronic health program, with the first two tranches of the initiative being at least two years late. The news comes care of a report published last week by the state’s long-suffering Auditor-General (PDF), who, it must be said, has seen this kind of thing many times before. Some sample paragraphs:

“The eHealth Program was to be implemented in two tranches of work, over a four year period commencing in 2007-08, at an initial cost of $401 million.

The implementation of the specialist clinical and administrative systems (Tranche 1) is over two years behind schedule because of unforeseen problems with procurement, contract establishment, systems testing, and recruitment and retention of staff. Half of the Tranche 1 systems have been fully implemented, and significant progress made on the remainder. The balance of work is due to be completed by June 2013.

… Tranche 2, the second stage of work, the development and implementation of the integrated electronic medical record (ieMR), also fell two years behind its original schedule due to delays in the procurement processes. The delays occurred mainly during the approval stages due to additional due diligence to ensure that implementation problems experienced with the payroll system were not repeated.”

I’ve said this before, but pretty much nothing would surprise me about Queensland Health at the moment, given the disaster that was the payroll systems implementation. When you add e-health to the mix (remember that Victoria recently dumped its own project, HealthSMART, and the rest of the jurisdictions around Australia aren’t doing too much better in general), you sort of have to expect that Queensland Health would be having problems in this regard. I’ve said it before, I’ve said it many times: State Government IT is a disaster zone right now. Of epic proportions. Billion-dollar proportions.

Of course, the e-health program at Queensland Health isn’t quite on the same scale as its payroll effort, and according to the Auditor-General things are broadly getting back on track, but at the very least it looks as though things are not as spiffy as Queensland Health planned them to be … by a long way.


  1. Maybe Queensland Health should value their staff more e.g. stop sacking them.

      • 4,000 overall from QH, and I heard that 300 of those were IT staff. Apparently there’s more to come.

        I’m not sure why, but Campbell seems hell bent on not just upping unemployment considerably in QLD, but inducing a Spanish style “austerity” economic slow down, we were actually doing pretty well before the LNP got in (if you listened to anyone other than Peter Costello).

      • There is rumor of a second tranche of layoffs to come.
        Revenge is sweet for the LNP right now. The little Napoleon is just a pretty puppet due to the Libs need to feel in charge. Jeff Seeney (Nat) is the power behind the throne and calling the shots.
        There is a payback going on for past political hurts. Most of QLD knows this, but the media up here (Limited News) doesn’t report it and is just a LNP Gazzette which Govt. Employees read only to find out their lot before their Managers officially are told.

        • Ditto in Wollongong. State jobs are being cut under the Liberal Govt, but it seems mostly in regional areas. Where the jobs are needed most.

  2. After briefly skimming through the linked report, I had to chuckle at this sentence:

    “A third tranche of work is planned but not yet funded to extend the statewide rollout of the ieMR to
    facilities managing 80 per cent of Queensland Health patient throughput, and to replace the current
    patient administration system.”

    The current system they’re referring to is HBCIS, and when I worked at Qld Health in the early 2000’s it was already considered long past its use-by date; from memory it has its roots in the early 80’s and is based on a truly ancient technology stack. To be honest I’m surprised they’ve kept it running this long, but not at all surprised they still haven’t built a replacement. When I was there it was a running joke that HBCIS would be replaced “soon”; they’d been talking about it for so long that no-one believed it was actually going to happen, even though everyone knew it was badly needed. That was a decade ago!

    Dysfunction like this is always difficult to grasp, but even more so when we’re talking about systems which have a direct impact on patient care. Getting the payroll wrong is bad enough, but using the IT equivalent of a horse and buggy to administer patient records is another thing entirely.

    • “using the IT equivalent of a horse and buggy to administer patient records”

      Whenever I’ve delved into the archaic world of health IT systems, it has appeared that this was more or less the norm.

    • HBCIS is still there, still the main system in Qld Health. It is also now so old, the original manufacturer (initially) refused to offer a renewed maintenance contract for it last time it expired.

  3. The opportunity cost of the QH ehealth program is perhaps larger than that of its failed payroll project. Spent the money, delivered nothing of value and have made is harder and more costly for future attempts. And as yet there is no replacement to the systems it was meant to – so there is lots more money to be spent..Congratulations.

  4. I don’t think e-Health has lost, as bits and pieces have flowed through to the Public. The biggest failure in it all, is the Politics that tries to curry it all in their favor and the other side hell bent on destroying it. This is what pollutes the final product and causes the problems.

  5. One must feel for the tireless efforts of the people involved in these projects, medical staff included as well as the IT group. Sometimes things just aren’t as easy as they seem. QH does have magnificent successes in the health IT area though. Take the AARK project (Winchart) as an example. This system was deployed to 43 public hospitals across the state, on budget and on time. It can be done, just need to select the right vendors.

  6. QH bought HBCIS from McDonnel Douglas in 1989 – it was originally pic on unix using Motorola encore hardware. In the 90’s it was ported across to DEC Alphas. iSOFT bought the old MDIS and signed a (I think) 7 year support agreement to maintain HBCIS until 2015. Now that it is CSC, I suspect that there will be little appetite to continue offering support – unless it is at a huge premium. QH has considered buying the source code just to maintain it. Given the Auditor General’s reports says the estimate is $440M and 5 to 7 years to implement, I think that QH has a bit of a problem! If only they would look to small companies – we could save them money and embarrassment.

Comments are closed.