Dáil Éireann - Volume 508 - 30 September, 1999

Priority Questions. - Computerisation Programme.

5. Mr. Shatter asked the Minister for Health and Children the extent of year 2000 compliance in health boards and hospitals to date; and if he has satisfied himself that no difficulties will arise with essential information systems or medical equipment and that no patient will be at risk as a consequence of lack of proper compliance. [18426/99]

Mr. Cowen: Since 1997, my Department has been working with health agencies to ensure year 2000 compliance in the health service. My Department has undertaken an overall role of co-ordinating, assisting and facilitating the sharing of information and monitoring progress. Each health agency has its own year 2000 project structure in place and the year 2000 remediation programme is now drawing to a close. To date, I have authorised expenditure amounting to approximately £25 million for the repair or replacement of non-compliant systems and equipment.

At this stage, agencies are completing the technical aspects of their compliance programmes and I am confident that all necessary work will be completed in good time. However, best practices in this field also demand the development and testing of contingency plans as an added guarantee. Accordingly, agencies are in the process of developing and testing comprehensive contin[672] gency plans, which will be put into effect in the event of a problem arising.

My objectives are to ensure there is no risk to the health and safety of health service clients and staff and that there is minimal disruption to normal services. I am confident these objectives can be achieved.

Mr. Shatter: The Minister said he is confident all these objectives can be achieved. In the context of the reports he has received from health boards and hospitals, is he satisfied that all compliance timeframes have been met so far, as originally laid down by his Department?

Mr. Cowen: There are a number of items outstanding in all the agencies. The number of requirements is quite low but they could not confirm full compliance as at 31 August. I am advised by the committee working on this matter on a daily basis in the Department., that there will be compliance in these areas. They are 90-95 per cent compliant but they cannot sign-off on full compliance until a number of small areas are sorted out.

Mr. Shatter: Will the Minister indicate the areas where there is a lack of compliance and the agencies involved?

Mr. Cowen: There is a need for certain guarantees from suppliers. Non IT equipment issues have to be finalised and addressed. The Minister for Finance provided a contingency fund of £40 million for the year 2000 in his budget speech last year with specific reference to the health service. That sum has now been provided for in a Vote in the Department of Finance and arrangements are currently being made to draw on that fund. When the purchased items are in place I understand there will be full compliance.

An Ceann Comhairle: That concludes Priority Questions.