Patients suffer and R4.8 million is lost as computers break down at George Mukhari Hospital

Patient care has been badly affected at the George Mukhari Hospital in north-west Gauteng due to the breakdown of their computer system, which has also resulted in a revenue loss of R4.8 million.

This is revealed by Gauteng Health MEC Nomathemba Mokgethi in a written reply to my questions in the Gauteng Legislature.

According to Mokgethi, the Medicom system at the hospital has not been functional since 23 January this year. The infrastructure equipment for Medicom was acquired between 2011 and 2012, but it was no longer under warranty or supported by the original manufacturer.

Mokgethi says that “as a result of continuous exposure to occasional power outages and the age of the equipment, the equipment was compromised and failed.”

The result for patients is “a huge negative impact on service delivery” as old patient files cannot be retrieved and new paper files have to be opened. Furthermore, there is “inability to retrieve files for medico-legal cases, Road Accident Fund claims, follow-up of information for SA National Blood Services, follow-up of complaints lodged.”

Manual registers are being used instead, which require “intense monitoring” as they have drawbacks that include:

  1. High risk of fraud
  2. It can be stolen or misplaced
  3. There is no backup

The estimated revenue loss because patients cannot be properly billed and debts followed up is estimated at R4.8 million.

The Department concedes that this outdated system cannot be fixed and says that the hospital has been prioritised for the new health information system which they envisage will start on 11 July 2022.

The reason that patients are still suffering from an outdated system is because of massive corruption under former Health MEC Brian Hlongwa who is currently on bail facing charges of fraud, corruption, money laundering and racketeering along with former senior Gauteng Health officials.

One of the charges is the award of a R1.2 billion tender to the Baoki consortium in 2008 to set up a health information system and electronic health record. They were paid more than R400 million before their contract was cancelled a year later with no system installed.

I have long advocated a new health information system and I hope they finally get this right as it is crucial to improve efficiency and to cut queues for patients.