A medical specialist has exposed alarming risks to patient safety and “gross inefficiencies” at a new and supposedly glitzy hospital in Queensland.
The Surgical, Treatment and Rehabilitation Service (STARS) facility only opened to patients in March, hailed as a “digital ready hospital” with Health Minister Yvette D’Ath saying the technology would redefine patient care.
But just months on, a raft of critical and basic issues are being investigated after an anaesthetist warned of specialists being unable to access critical medicine, Covid-19 safety precautions not being followed, communication failures leading to patients missing procedures and at least two sewage pipe leaks.
In an email seen by NCA NewsWire, Metro North said the communication and drug distribution services were being reviewed to “ensure that technology does not impact on patient safety”.
STARS, along with the Royal Brisbane and Women’s Hospital and Sunshine Coast University Hospital, rely on an automated drug dispensing machine that regularly malfunctions and risks critical drugs being unavailable, according to the anaesthetist.
The specialist doctor, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said Pyxis, essentially a computerised drug supply station, was used by anaesthetists in the three hospitals and “all three of them have problems with them locking down and not letting people into them”.
She said the machine is supposed to have a specific function to allow critical medicine, such as ephedrine and midazolam, to be accessed during emergencies but the specialist said she was completely locked out on three occasions over a 10-week period.
“One time it took three days to fix,” she told NCA NewsWire.
“So what has happened at STARS is most of the anaesthetists don’t trust they can get emergency drugs in a hurry, so at the beginning of the day, they get a set of emergency drugs out, draw them up and leave them on their trolley.”
“They don’t trust what would happen in an emergency situation because it has failed them before,” she said, stressing “when you need it (medicine), you need it 30 seconds ago”.
Although the correspondence said the concerns about Pyxis was under review, Queensland Health said there were no plans to remove the medication dispensing stations based on “overwhelmingly positive” feedback.
“There has been one formal incident involving Pyxis at Royal Brisbane Women’s Hospital,” the spokesperson said. “This was a software issue that was promptly rectified and had no impact on patients.”
The Metro North email revealed the integrated electronic medical record (ieMR) is also under investigation following concerns vulnerable portions of the population find the system too complicated to understand.
The anaesthetist said confusion caused by the system had resulted in up to 50 per cent of patients not showing up for important procedures on some days.
The STARS endoscopy department uses the technology to book gastroscopy and colonoscopies, despite the problematic system being aborted at another major Brisbane hospital because of similar concerns.
“They were using the electronic medical records functionality to do automated bookings so it would send out texts to the patients or email, which of course in the instance of the elderly population — which is a lot of people having colonoscopies — weren’t necessarily ever getting the text, seeing the text or understanding the text.
“Or (they were) not thinking the text was real and ignoring it.”