System failure in HSE South servers affecting five hospitals

Hospitals forced to revert to accessing handwritten laboratory results

Cork University Hospital. Photograph: Daragh Mac Sweeney/Provision.

Cork University Hospital. Photograph: Daragh Mac Sweeney/Provision.

Thu, Aug 21, 2014, 01:00

A breakdown in the HSE South’s IT server system is resulting in delayed access to patient pathology results in five Munster hospitals.

The five hospitals, including Cork University Hospital (CUH), have reverted to accessing handwritten laboratory results due to problems transmitting information across computers and electronic devices such as smartphones.

Technical difficulties with the Laboratory Information Management System (LIMS) are causing delayed access to patient records affecting CUH, Mercy University Hospital, Bantry General, Mallow General and Kerry General in Tralee.

The laboratory service in HSE South uses LIMS as a regional system to provide prompt access to patient pathology results.

Ward theatres and GPs are experiencing significant delays, as laboratory staff have resorted to hand-writing results and are relying on “less than satisfactory means” to deliver results, according to a hospital source.

It is understood a server system failed last Saturday, and continued efforts to fix the problem have failed.

Blood transfusions

The situation is of particular concern for medics treating patients requiring blood transfusions as “there is no or very limited access to patient’s historical blood requirements,” according to an informed source.

Responding to a request for comment, HSE South confirmed problems with the LIMS system and said efforts to rectify the issue were ongoing.

“Some technical difficulties have occurred in the Laboratory Information Management System at CUH and the hospital’s Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Department is working with the suppliers of the system to correct these technical issues as quickly as possible,” it said in a statement.

The laboratory service has implemented “contingency arrangements” to continue to provide “essential diagnostic services to the hospital departments, GPs and other community services”.

The HSE said its laboratory service was working extended hours as the problem continued.

“All urgent samples are being prioritised but some delays are being experienced for the results of samples classed as routine or non-urgent due to the system reverting to a manual process until the IT issue is resolved,” the HSE said.

“CUH management wish to extend their thanks to staff in CUH for their efforts and all parties are working to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.”

Pathology services carry out investigations on specimens from patients and are therefore central to the diagnosis, management and treatment of disease.