Audit reveals inadequate drug checks

Inadequate checks by the North Coast Area Health Service led to concerns that $130,000 worth of drugs had gone missing from Lismore Base Hospital. The NSW Auditor-Generals report for 2006/07 revealed the problem this week, but NCAHS chief executive Chris Crawford blamed the problem on computer errors, although it seems the health service was not even aware of the problem until it was revealed in an external audit.

Mr Crawford said that while $437 worth of Panadeine Forte, a common pain relief drug, remained unaccounted for, the discrepancy was caused by running two software systems that didnt match up due to inadequate financial reconciliation.

The Auditor-General criticised the NCAHS for failing to notify the proper authorities about the problem, but Mr Crawford explained that the Auditor-Generals report was completed before the NCAHS had completed its investigation into what had actually happened. He said all of the recommendations of the AGs report had been accepted and implemented.

A comprehensive overhaul of pharmacy stock control practices has been undertaken and... brought about a significant improvement in managing the pharmaceutical inventory, Mr Crawford said.

The Auditor-Generals report also revealed that bed occupancy rates increased from 78.9 per cent in 2006 to 90 per cent in 2007. Meanwhile, standards for the timely treatment of emergency patients have fallen. In 2006 the NCAHS met four of the five benchmarks set by the Department of Health, while the report stated in 2007 it only met three of those benchmarks.

The report also stated the NCAHS has one of the fastest turnarounds for patient stays in the state, with the average length of a stay down to 3.3 days.


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