Faulty health-care payroll system will eventually work, Sask. health minister says, but no timeline provided

Health Minister Paul Merriman could now provide a timeline for when the new system AIMS would be back up and running. (Bryan Eneas/CBC - image credit)
Health Minister Paul Merriman could now provide a timeline for when the new system AIMS would be back up and running. (Bryan Eneas/CBC - image credit)

Saskatchewan's health minister acknowledged on Monday that a new administrative system for managing payroll, scheduling, finance and the supply chain for the province's health-care system was taken down due to a number of glitches.

However, he provided no timeline for when the system would be back up and running.

The Administrative Information Management System (AIMS) was meant to replace 80 existing systems and improve "data accuracy [and] reliability" while benefiting employees, clients, patients, residents and families, according to a website about the system.

AIMS was taken down on on Nov. 4 after complaints that it was bug-ridden.

"I'm confident that we'll get AIMS working. I just don't have a timeline on that right now because we have to go back and figure out exactly what went wrong," Health Minister Merriman told reporters Monday afternoon.

Earlier that afternoon, the Official Opposition grilled Merriman during question period at the legislative session in Regina, saying the government has broken Saskatchewan's health-care system.

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CBC News

"Too many families can't get a family doctor, people can't deliver babies across rural Saskatchewan and health-care workers are feeling disrespected, burnt out and choosing to leave the province entirely," said NDP Health Critic Vicki Mowat.

"Now this government's new bug-ridden, health-care employee administrative system AIMS was paused a week after it went live. Can this government get anything right? How much is this botched AIMS rollout going to cost?"

Merriman did not address any costs that may be brought on by the glitches.

But he responded to Mowat by admitting there were some complications with AIMS. He says the SHA put the program on hold because it wanted to make sure that all employees within the health-care system were paid and scheduled properly, all to "maintain patient safety."

"This government knew that this rollout was coming for years. What went wrong and what is the plan to fix it?" Mowat asked.

Ensure payments are made: Merriman

Merriman said he can guarantee that the people in the health-care system will receive their cheques.

"We have reverted back to our legacy system ... which has been in place for years. So we will continue to make sure that those payments are done to our health-care workers," said Merriman during question period.

"As you can imagine, combining over 80 systems with union agreements ... and some of these systems are over 50 years old. Mr Speaker, we do have to upgrade some of these legacy systems."

Merriman says when AIMS is in a position where the scheduling and the payroll are in a safe place, the government will resume it.

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CBC

But the Opposition says the province should have been more thorough when preparing the replacement system.

"The minister acts like this was a surprise, but people have known for a very long time that this rollout would be a disaster," said Mowat.

"Shifts are being filled on Facebook. It is absurd."

The Saskatchewan Union of Nurses filed a provincial grievance for the way the system affected members, including errors in scheduling, leave requests and hours worked.

"Saskatchewan people have lost confidence in this government's management of the health system," Mowat said.

Merriman tried to assure the room that the ministry had contingency plans built into place if there were any challenges with AIMS.

"We enacted those contingency plans as soon as there were problems."