ACT Chief Minister, Katy Gallagher at the Intensive Care Unit, Calvary Hospital. Photo: Graham Tidy
Calvary Hospital patients were recorded as having been admitted to a ward while they were still in the emergency department, according to documents released under the Freedom of Information Act.
A brief sent to Health Minister and Chief Minister Katy Gallagher in January 2010 shows that during the previous year, concerns had been raised about Calvary Hospital's Clinical Decision Unit exceeding its 12-bed capacity.
Health official Phil Ghirardello wrote: ''This suggested a data integrity issue within Calvary Public Hospital, with patients being listed as admitted to the CDU while not physically in the unit (and possibly still receiving care within the emergency department).
''The national data definitions for emergency departments and access block do not permit patients to be classified as admitted patients while they are physically located in the ED.''
A later audit found that the access block statistics of Calvary Public Hospital had been significantly affected by recording patients as having been admitted to the Clinical Decision Unit before they had been physically transferred. But the audit found no specific breaches of ACT Health policy and directions had occurred. Calvary subsequently changed the way it was reporting access to the Clinical Decision Unit ward in line with ACT Health definitions.
The FOI documents also reveal that Canberra Hospital emergency department staff believed that audits ordered in the wake of the data doctoring affair were harming patient care.
In a May 2012 memo to Health Director-General Peggy Brown, emergency department clinical director Michael Hall raised concerns about the amount of time he and his staff were spending dealing with auditors involved in two separate investigators. ''Since the start, this issue has taken up hundreds of hours of my time over the last four to five weeks, and my department and myself are suffering from a lack of clinical and teaching presence,'' Dr Hall wrote. ''My job as director is to be responsible for clinical matters and I have absolutely no doubt that this process is impacting on our overall performance, and thus directly on patient care.''
Internal Health emails also reveal some details of the initial investigations into how emergency department data was tampered with. On April 18, Dr Hall wrote:
''This will drive everyone nuts, by the way. From my understanding, there is no way to track who has changed the data. We can look for patterns but EDIS data changes are recorded poorly overall.''
Several days later, Canberra Hospital staffer Kate Jackson confessed to having altered emergency department performance records.