Government exposes country patients to hackers

The Weatherill Government’s mismanagement of a key IT system used in country hospitals has left the health records of tens of thousands of South Australian patients vulnerable to malicious attacks from computer hackers.

Since 1995, SA Health has been using Global Health Pty Ltd’s Chiron Patient Administration System at 68 rural and regional hospitals.

In 2003, the company retired the program from the general market. Since then, the South Australian Government has continually refused to take up Global Health’s offer of a free upgrade to its next generation product.

Last week (25 November 2015), in his address to the company’s Annual General Meeting, Global Health’s CEO, Mathew Cherian, explained how the SA Government’s inaction has left the records of SA country patients vulnerable to attack.

Mr Cherian said:

It is unrealistic to expect that 25 year-old software without appropriate upgrades can cope with today’s complexity and the increasing vulnerability of ‘connectivity’ in this age of ever-increasing malicious attacks by hackers often for criminal activity such as identify theft, blackmail or other financial gain.

He went on to point out that Chiron currently manages “sensitive clinical and episodic information for patients, financial, inventory, assets and banking information” and “contains data going back 20 years.”

Mr Cherian also drew attention to the fact that the “South Australian Government has continued its use of Chiron and Harmony in its 68 rural hospitals, without the Company’s permission or payment of any licence fees since 1 April 2015.”

“The Weatherill Government’s refusal to bite the bullet on country hospital IT leaves health consumers and their personal information vulnerable to malicious hacking and associated criminal activity,” said Shadow Health Minister Stephen Wade.

“The Weatherill Government previously promised to install a new integrated patient records system (EPAS) in country hospitals as part of a state-wide roll out.

“Now it’s only planning to install EPAS in just 2 country hospitals despite the fact that the cost of EPAS has doubled to more than $400 million since 2007.

“The Weatherill Government’s hopeless mismanagement of the installation of EPAS has resulted in patients in regional South Australian hospitals being left at risk.”

“Country hospitals have been left with a patient record system that was developed in the 1980’s, installed in the 1990s and which has been out of licence since earlier this year.

“The Government’s ongoing dispute with Chiron needs to be resolved urgently,” Mr Wade said.