Health Network | A lab computer system crippled by a breakdown

A new tile that delays the analysis of many samples

The new Laboratory Information System that the government is implementing in its hospital laboratories across Quebec suffered a widespread outage on Wednesday morning. For more than an hour and a half, the nine hospitals that have been connected to the system so far have been forced to switch to manual mode and only process urgent samples.

In a note sent around 11 a.m. to all its employees on Wednesday morning, the CIUSSS de la Montérégie-Centre indicated that “the laboratory’s computer system is currently down”. “The duration of this outage has significant impacts on our activities and our response time. Only STAT and emergency scans will be performed,” reads the memo obtained by The Press.

The outage affected the nine hospitals connected to the new provincial laboratory information system (SIL-P), namely the CHUM, the Suroît hospital, the Cité-de-la-Santé hospital, the CHUS Fleurimont, CHUS – Hôtel-Dieu, Granby Hospital, Barrie-Memorial Hospital, Pierre-Boucher Hospital and Charles-Le Moyne Hospital.

“We had to switch to manual and paper mode. It leads to some chaos. And a definite work overload,” notes Mélanie Leblanc, president of the APTS executive at the CISSS de la Montérégie-Centre. Mme Leblanc says he doesn’t know how many samples have been slowed down by the failure. “But just the requests that we get from emergencies represent a large volume,” she says.

Since this is a province-wide outage, the CISSS de la Montérégie-Centre led the questions of The Press to the Ministry of Health and Social Services (MSSS), which could not respond to it on Wednesday. At the CHUM, those in charge of communications indicated that “services experienced a slowdown in the morning which was quickly absorbed in the afternoon and [qu’]no samples were rejected”.

President of the APTS at the CHUM, Nathalie Moreau specifies that during the breakdown, the laboratory results were sent by fax to the emergency room. “We still don’t know the reason for the outage,” she said.

Major project

Launched last fall, the SIL-P aims to implement a single new computer system in all 120 hospital laboratories in the province. Currently, five different companies provide LIS in Quebec. And there are “more than 70 versions of systems that do not communicate with each other” in the health network, according to the MSSS.

Each year, 189 million samples are processed in the laboratories of the health network. The analysis of these samples makes it possible in particular to detect infections, cancers and various types of illnesses.

In the fall, the implementation of the new SIL-P encountered problems forcing the government to slow down the pace of deployment, as reported The Press in December1.

In a survey to be released on Friday, The Press will present in more detail the stormy development of this $165 million project.

Wednesday’s outage is one more tile that falls on this ambitious IT contract. The whole thing occurs while the laboratories of the province are under great pressure, in particular for lack of personnel. In February, the two medical federations of Quebec wrote an open letter to denounce the “failed deployment” of the SIL-P and requested an emergency intervention from the Minister of Health, Christian Dubé.

To read on Friday: “Computer shift: new system, new setbacks”

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