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Singapore

Delays at some hospitals, polyclinics on Sep 29 due to disruption to electronic medical system

The disruption affected hospitals and polyclinics under the National Healthcare Group and the National University Health System.

Delays at some hospitals, polyclinics on Sep 29 due to disruption to electronic medical system

Visitors queue at Woodlands Polyclinic on Sep 29, 2022, after a system failure left them unable to get queue numbers for their appointments. (Photo: A Kannan)

SINGAPORE: A disruption to the electronic medical record system caused delays in registration and longer wait times on Thursday (Sep 29) at hospitals and polyclinics under the National Healthcare Group (NHG) and the National University Health System (NUHS).

Some non-urgent appointments had to be rescheduled.

"Patients who required urgent medical assistance were promptly attended to," said NHG, NUHS and Integrated Health Information Systems (IHiS) on Saturday in response to CNA's queries on Thursday. 

"Staff on the ground helped to support and assist patients, in view of some delay in registration and longer wait times. Patients who fasted as part of their medical procedures were offered drinks and biscuits to cope as necessary."

The healthcare institutions affected on Thursday include Woodlands Polyclinic and Yishun Polyclinic.

Mr A Kannan, who had a blood test scheduled that morning, told CNA that he faced issues getting a queue number on his HealthHub app before his appointment.

Patients can usually get a queue number on the app 30 minutes before their scheduled appointment time.

Mr Kannan then left home earlier to get a queue number from the self-help terminals at Woodlands Polyclinic but said the terminals were "shut down", describing the situation there as "chaotic".

"Staff told the patients to obtain a queue number manually, reschedule their appointments, or contact the contact centre," he told CNA.

He added that his wife, who had another appointment at the same polyclinic, was also told to reschedule it due to the outage.

"We then decided not to wait as we were told to prepare to wait for two to three hours to be called," Mr Kannan said, adding that he would have to wait for the polyclinic to contact him for his next appointment.

"There was no announcement on the HealthHub on the situation at the polyclinic and calling the helplines did not help either."

Another CNA reader who did not want to be named said she faced similar issues with the self-help terminals at Yishun Polyclinic when she arrived at 9.50am for her 10am appointment.

"I was attended to immediately," she said, adding that polyclinic employees at the entrance told her that the "entire system was down", with a waiting time of two to three hours.

A polyclinic staff member advised her to head home instead and reschedule the appointment via the HealthHub app when the system is up.

"It would be better if there was an SMS alert or announcement on their Facebook page to inform the affected patients," she said.

"Most were turned away, but those who did not mind waiting still queued to register."

In their joint reply to CNA's queries, NHG, NUHS and IHiS said they received reports of users experiencing difficulties accessing the electronic medical record system at about 3.40am on Sep 29.

"The affected institutions activated their business continuity measures," they said, adding that the system was restored at 1pm on the same day.

"We are monitoring the situation and the system is stable," said NHG, NUHS and IHiS.

"We would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused and convey our appreciation to patients, staff and members of the public for their patience and kind understanding while the system was being restored."

On Aug 27, patients at some polyclinics had their appointments delayed or rescheduled after system outages, according to a report by the Straits Times. 

The public healthcare monitoring systems detected IT network connectivity failures, which affected 17 public healthcare institutions, including community hospitals, specialist outpatient clinics and all polyclinics.

Another incident occurred on Sep 5 when a fault was detected in the IT infrastructure.

The disruption affected eight public healthcare institutions and two out of three polyclinic groups, according to Senior Minister of State for Health Janil Puthucheary, who gave an update on the matter in Parliament in September. 

He added that the two IT system outages at healthcare institutions on Aug 27 and Sep 5 were caused by failures of hardware devices in data centres, not a lack of manpower.

This story came from a reader tip-off. If you would like to send in information, photos or videos about something newsworthy, submit your news tips on CNA Eyewitness.

Source: CNA/ga(gs)
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