NDP Opposition calls for review of IHealth program

NANAIMO – NDP health critic calls for Health Minister to meet with staff.

The head of Nanaimo’s medical staff association, joined Friday by New Democrat MLAs in the call for an independent review of Island Health’s electronic record system, claims IHealth is difficult to use, inefficient and that there’s concern about patient safety.

“It’s too easy to do things wrong and it’s too hard to do things right, so inevitably there’s going to be a serious error which occurs and patient harm which is caused by the system,” said Dr. David Forrest, president of Nanaimo’s medical staff association and a doctor at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital.

A press conference was held at Nanaimo Regional General Hospital Friday by the health critic for the opposition, Judy Darcy, Nanaimo MLA Leonard Krog, and Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley, who were flanked by Forrest and Sheryl Armstrong, chairwoman of the Dufferin Place family council. All of the parties are calling for an expedited, independent and expert review of the $178-million IHealth system, which went online at the hospital and Dufferin Place March 19.

Island Health aims to move toward one record for every patient, a virtual central data bank of information health care practitioners would be able to access at any of its facilities.

Since the system was implemented, more than 100 health-care providers – mainly doctors – signed a petition requesting the system be suspended until issues are addressed. Island Health has continued to operate its system, but has taken immediate steps to address staff fatigue and boost staff trust.

The issue moved into a physician dispute-resolution process last week through Doctors of B.C. as a result of concerns not being addressed, according to Forrest, who says physicians are frustrated concerns have not been listened to, demoralized because they are providing care with a system they don’t trust and feel the quality of care has deteriorated.

Forrest said the system is difficult to use and inefficient so it increases the work load for physicians and other health-care providers, meaning patient access to care is reduced. He said that user interface is poor, making it difficult to find information. He said the primary concern is patient safety.

Krog said the sense they all have is patient safety is being put at risk as a result of attempting to implement a system Forrest and others have pointed out doesn’t seem to work.

He said an expert, independent review is the only way to get answers about the system.

Darcy said there’s a need for electronic health records that work, but this one is a failure and a system not designed for users – the front-line health care providers. She said she’s concerned the Minister of Health seems to be willing to blame the users and that the physicians, nurses and health professionals who have to work with the system every day are not being listened to.

She said it’s the Ministry of Health responsible for delivering health care to British Columbians, and the health authorities are accountable to them, so directive needs to come from the minister, who she challenges to come to Nanaimo, speak with health care providers and to do the independent review.

With files from John McKinley, Black Press