Longer wait for patients after 9 polyclinics hit by IT system disruption; some turned away

Patients had to be turned away at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic due to an IT system disruption on Monday (June 6) morning.
Patients had to be turned away at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic due to an IT system disruption on Monday (June 6) morning. ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN
Patients had to be turned away at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic due to an IT system disruption on Monday (June 6) morning.
Patients had to be turned away at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic due to an IT system disruption on Monday (June 6) morning. ST PHOTO: MARCUS TAN

SINGAPORE - The IT systems at nine polyclinics briefly experienced disruptions and slowness on Monday (June 6) morning, causing some patients to be turned away from their scheduled appointments.

The affected polyclinics - Ang Mo Kio, Bukit Batok, Choa Chu Kang, Clementi, Hougang, Jurong, Toa Payoh, Woodlands and Yishun - are managed by National Healthcare Group Polyclinics (NHGP).

There are a total of 18 polyclinics in Singapore. The other nine are managed by Singapore Health Services (SingHealth) and were not affected by the disruption.

In response to media queries, NHGP's director of clinical operations Ang Chee Chiang said the disruption lasted for about an hour - from 8.20am to 9.20am - and that there were longer waiting times for patients on Monday morning.

Normal operations resumed after 9.20am.

"Patients with urgent medical conditions were expedited for medical treatments. The polyclinics carried out manual registrations during the downtime period to help expedite the process," Mr Ang said.

"We are closely monitoring the system performance and investigating the cause of the IT system issues."

Facebook user Quek Jia Wei told The Straits Times he was at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic for his baby's scheduled vaccination at 9am but was turned away due to the system disruption. In a Facebook post to the National Healthcare Group (NHG), Mr Quek also claimed to have seen many elderly patients being turned away.

"Staff took down my baby's details and said they will call back to make another appointment. The polyclinic failed to notify me that the system was down and I wasted my time travelling down," Mr Quek said, adding he was disappointed that there was no back-up system in place.

When The Straits Times visited Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic at 12.15pm, the clinic's registration kiosks were functioning and patient flow was back to normal. 

Dr Christopher Chong, head of the clinic, said this was the first time such a disruption had occurred and that the clinic was "caught off-guard" as it had only just opened at 8am. 

"There were some backup IT systems in place but they were slower; hence we resorted to manual means to register patients," Dr Chong said. 

He added that nurses were stationed at the front of the clinic to direct the more urgent cases - patients who were in pain, had difficulty with movement or expressed discomfort - to the doctors. 

Those who turned up for regular check-ups had their appointments rescheduled, while walk-in patients with illnesses such as flu and cough were informed of other clinics nearby they could visit.

Responding to Mr  Quek's Facebook post, NHG apologised for the incident and Mr Quek later said his baby's appointment was rescheduled to Monday afternoon. 

According to Dr Chong, the clinic's electronic immunisation system was down and it could not access its records. "The safer option was to reschedule and he was told to come back in the afternoon."

Another Facebook user, Princess Miyuki, also reported the same problem at Ang Mo Kio Polyclinic. She said polyclinic staff were unable to access any records.