The bungled rollout of an online ordering system for Queensland hospitals that left doctors without supplies, and vendors not being paid, has cost taxpayers an extra $33 million to fix, according to an investigation by the Auditor-General.
The review found the financial software, used to order and pay for vital medical supplies across the state, had “significant issues” after it was switched in August 2019 and staff didn’t know how to use it.
The program was referred for investigation by the State Opposition last year, which claimed staff were running out of critical supplies and vendors were refusing to deliver stock because they weren’t getting paid.
The Auditor-General found $540 million worth of vendor invoices were paid late in the first three months after the new system went live.
It also confirmed hospitals had trouble ordering supplies in the right quantity, and discovered 14 out of 16 hospital and health services across the state felt the system wasn’t working as expected.
The Auditor-General’s report said fixing the issues of the IT bungle had come at a significant cost in time, resources and dollars, including to taxpayers.
“Not all costs can be quantified, but an extra $33.5 million was spent to go live and to provide heightened support to entities over the four-month hypercare and transition period,” the report said.
At the time it was referred for investigation, sources had told the ABC that health staff were having to ration some of their supplies because stock was running low.
Shadow Health minister Ros Bates also said, “nurses having to put Band-Aids on the corporate bank card is absolutely appalling. Last week I heard nurses were actually buying food for patients from Woolworths”.
The report said Queensland Health had indicated the system failures, “had little to no adverse impact on patient care,” but the department had underestimated the compounding issues, pre-delivery.
Staff, managers not prepared for system
It found both staff and managers weren’t prepared for the system to go live and as a result, system performance affected productivity.
“Entities reported low completion rates for user training. Users had poor understanding of their responsibilities and the system’s processes,” the report said.
“Chief executives endorsed their entities’ readiness to go live, with caveats, although none had fully completed their readiness activities.”
Health Minister Steven Miles said he believed the report found the system had been important, and necessary.
“It by and large indicates that the process was managed well,” he said.
“Of course there are recommendations about how it could be done better.”
Two recommendations were made by the Auditor-General.
One was for redesigning the governance and accountability frameworks around project delivery, and a second asking for a cost-benefit analysis to develop a system that better monitored stock levels and consumption in real time.
The latest bungle comes a decade after Queensland Health’s disastrous payroll system failure, where thousands of staff were overpaid by millions of dollars.
That scandal ended up costing taxpayers more than $1 billion and ended the careers of several senior bureaucrats.