Legacy health software lands SA Govt in court


blog Those of you who have been following State Government IT news for some time may be aware that not all systems in this area are kept (even vaguely) up to date. But what you may not realise is that some are so old they are starting to lead to lawsuits. Global Health, which owns a company called Working Systems Software, recently announced it was suing the South Australian Government to stop it using the ageing platform, which Global Health appears to want everyone off pronto. The company’s media release states:

“Working Systems claims breaches of contract and infringements of copyright by the State, arising from the State’s continuing use of the CHIRON Patient Administration System software and HARMONY Financial System software (collectively, CHIRON) beyond 31 March 2015, as outlined in the Company’s abovementioned previous announcements. Working Systems seeks relief by way of damages, declarations and a permanent injunction restraining the State from continuing to use CHIRON.”

The Adelaide advertiser has a bit more, noting that the South Australian Government has been the last customer of the software since 2008 — seven years ago. Global Health cannot keep supporting the software any more — but the South Australian Government has not yet been able to organise a replacement, leading to the current Mexican stand-off where SA is claiming that it has Crown-related copyright exemptions to continue to use the system.

Now, there are two things to note here. The first is the obvious fact that state governments around Australia are continuing to delay upgrading crucial IT systems that, in some cases such as this one, date back to the 1980’s. This is a clearly unsustainable approach and will lead to countless inefficiencies. We can only imagine just how much South Australia’s medical staff hate this dated platform by now.

However, the other thing to notice here is that health IT — patient management systems, electronic health records and the like — are notoriously difficult to implement. This kind of problem with outdated health IT systems is chronic to the industry, and things aren’t getting better any time soon. It’s a global issue and one that will likely not go away until hospitals and other health facilities start to operate on a more standardised basis, leading to less deep customisation being needed in health IT packages.

By the way, this is not the only legal stoush the SA Government is involved in with an IT vendor at the moment. As iTnews notes, it could actually be the third in a year. Sounds like the lawyers are going to be making a killing in Adelaide in the next few months.


  1. Kind of amusing that even our governments are pirates (though they have a much cooler excuse of it with “crown exemptions” and all).

  2. “We can only imagine just how much South Australia’s medical staff hate this dated platform by now.”

    Trust me, they hate using the new EPAS system even more. And that one, according to a comment I overheard yesterday from an SA Health board member, is also scheduled to cost a bucket load more money… total will be over $1B by the time it’s finally live, a far cry from the $400m initial sticker price.

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