South Australian hospitals depend on ancient code

Ayers Rock/Uluru in central Australian desert, Northern Territory. 1992.The South Australian Government has warned about patient safety if it is forced to stop using an ancient crucial software system in country hospitals.

The system called CHIRON, is used at 64 country health sites in South Australia, including at the Mount Barker Hospital. It is based on MS-DOS and is so old it can remember when dinosaurs were its first patients.

But CHIRON’s maker, an outfit called Working Systems demanded the State Government stop using it because the licence expired in March last year.

But the  Government said complying would jeopardise patient safety and there would be a material risk to SA Health’s ability to provide an effective health service.

The Government says that without CHIRON hospital staff would not have access to critical information such as patient allergies to medication and there was potential for new patient data being lost or incorrectly recorded.

But Working Systems said that is the government’s fault for not buying new software. CHIRON was updated in 2003, so the government had plenty of time.

Working Systems said that it was impossible to get a licence extension for CHIRON was not possible because it was too old and no longer supported.  In 2014 the Government assured Working Systems it was seeking a replacement.

In fact that system, called EPAS, was dogged by delays, controversy and cost blowouts. It is currently only operating at three sites, including Port Augusta.

A court will decide what the government will have to do and the trial will start in December.