Noel Towell July 03, 2012
It is “probable” that more than one ACT Health staff member was doctoring data at Canberra Hospital’s emergency room during the past three years, according to the Auditor General.
But Auditor Maxine Cooper found that poor controls over the relevant information systems meant it was impossible to know how many people were involved in falsifying the information to make hospital results look better.
The audit found that records of up to 11,700 Emergency Department presentations might have been manipulated between 2009 and 2012, so that the length of time patients spent in hospital and the timeliness of their treatment was altered.
The investigation also found that the admissions of the executive who confessed in April to doctoring figures did not cover all of the data manipulation the auditors believe occurred during the relevant period.
“The executive has admitted to manipulating hospital records initially in 2010 and on a much larger scale throughout 2011 into early 2012,” the audit reads.
“The executive’s admission of manipulating records does not account for all of the changes that were made to hospital records, where timeliness information was improved.”
Dr Cooper’s team also concluded that “managerial pressure” was placed on the executive to improve the performance of the emergency department.
The executive at the centre of the storm wrote in a letter of apology for her actions saying she acted in an environment of fear for her job and the positions of other workers if the hospital's statistic did not improve.
"The environment in the Executive at Canberra Hospital has increasingly become one where I felt fearful for myself and for other people that I work with," the woman wrote.
"Having been constantly told things like 'Fix the numbers', 'I don’t care if you have to go down and stand at triage yourself to make sure they are referring patients to the Walk In Centre, get it done', 'I have told the Minister that we will be at 70 per cent of patients being seen on time by December so make sure it happens' and 'Your staff are not able to do their jobs and show no leadership' I could see no way out.
"I kept hoping that all the initiatives we were doing to improve ED would have an effect on the performance data and that I could stop."