MANATEE -- Hospital Corporation of America experienced computer problems statewide that prevented staff from accessing patient records Sunday and Monday.
In a statement made Wednesday, HCA spokesman Ed Fishbough indicated that beginning Sunday morning HCA hospitals including Blake Medical Center, experienced a hardware storage issue that limited use of electronic health records.
"Full access was restored using our existing alternate data center strategy," Fishbough added. "While working to fix this issue, which did not affect patient care, we used other systems and processes we have in place. We appreciate the patience and diligence of our caregivers."
At least one Blake patient said the computer issue was more troublesome than Fishbough's description.
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Jean Peelen, vice chairwoman of the Holmes Beach City Commission and a current Blake patient, on Wednesday said that the hospital was in turmoil from the computer problem and that any suggestion that things went smoothly during the problem was wrong.
"I saw extreme tension, exhaustion and frustration," said Peelen, who is being treated for bronchitis and spoke by cell phone from her hospital bed. "One nurse broke down and cried because she couldn't find a piece of paper that told her when one patient had last had pain medication and she couldn't give them a dosage. Doctors were just as frustrated and were taking notes on little pieces of paper. The quality of care for me and my roommate was just down because nurses were not checking in as they normally did because they had a crisis on their hands."
Blake Medical Center is a designated Level II Trauma Center for trauma patients who live south of Tampa Bay. For those patients, every second counts, according to the hospital.
Peelen is also concerned that information written down on paper over the weekend will not be included in patients' permanent files.
"You can't go from a computer system with no backup without knowing everyone's medication and treatment plan," Peelen said. "You can't go from that to a paper system without any protocols."
Told Peelen's concerns about records, Fishbough said, "The systems and processes I mentioned are in place to ensure patient records are updated appropriately."
Peelen called Aventura Hospital and Medical Center and Fort Walton Beach Medical Center, both in the HCA family, and discovered they, too had computer problems. HCA confirmed those two hospitals had computer issues also.
"I have no evidence that no patient was harmed," Peelen said. "I saw everything was a mess and out of order and they were unable to do their jobs and to imply it was a minor blip on a radar scope was PR at its best."
Peelen said she was not angry at Blake Medical Center but wanted the record set straight.
"I am upset when I see a cover-up of a major system failure," Peelen added. "I think there is a cover-up by HCA trying to make it seem that for a hot minute things weren't fine then they were."
Peelen said she came to the hospital emergency room at 1 p.m. Sunday afternoon for severe bronchitis and sat in a wheelchair for 11 hours waiting to be admitted.
"The waiting room was packed wall to wall all day Sunday," Peelen said. "I think they got so far behind and were trying to find some forms and that is what did it. They had a horrendous back-up."
Responding to Peelen, Blake spokeswoman Melissa Morgan wrote in an email: "Part of our process included keeping manual documentation that is then entered into the electronic health record. We apologize that this has meant some delays and inconvenience, but we are dedicated to ensuring that our patients records are accurate and that their care is complete. We are so grateful to our clinical staff who for their extra efforts and multiple checks of patient information."
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter@RichardDymond.