Hospital computer system defended

A MISSING vial of blood has cast doubt over a computer system in use at hospitals throughout NSW.

The system is designed to make a patient's records available wherever they go for treatment. However, Kyogle resident Kay McGrath said she was told the North Coast Area Health Service had lost its record of her visiting Kyogle Hospital on March 5, about the same time it lost a blood sample she gave there.

A spokeswoman for the health service said the computer system did record the visit, but staff failed to record the visit in a hand-written record book used for people giving blood samples.

The spokeswoman said the sample was given to a pathology courier for delivery to Lismore Base Hospital, but appeared to have been lost en-route.

The lost sample and the missing record were not connected, the spokeswoman said.

The episode casts doubt over the effectiveness of the electronic record system used by NSW Health to keep patient records.

In theory, the system allows any hospital to access complete records for a patient, regardless of where the hospital is or where the patient was last treated.

The spokeswoman said Mrs McGrath's arrival at Kyogle Hospital was recorded in the electronic system and her reason for going to the hospital - to have a blood test - would likely also have been recorded.

However, the outcome - the drawing of the sample and its subsequent trip to Lismore - should have been hand-written in a ledger before being entered into the computer system.

It was this step that was skipped.

The spokeswoman defended the computer system, saying it worked well and the nurse who told Mrs McGrath there was no record of her visit to Kyogle Hospital had probably not checked the computer system.



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