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April 1, 2011

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Home » Metro » Health and Science

Medical card database fails in hospitals

THE city's medical insurance system broke down for 20 minutes yesterday as people crowded hospitals across Shanghai to use the money in their health coverage accounts on the last day of the fiscal year.

The system broke down between 9:10am and 9:30am yesterday due to a malfunction, resulting in temporary confusion as outpatient departments in hospitals could not access the medical insurance database.

Patients were frustrated as they could not use their smart cards containing their health insurance information. Hospitals managed to keep most patients calm and sent more staff and guards to maintain order and explain the problem.

"Each hospital has a contingency plan to cope with an unexpected situation if it lasts more than 20 minutes, such as registering patients using hand-written notes," said Yang Xiaodong, an official at Shanghai Children's Hospital. "Since the system recovered quickly, our hospital didn't activate the contingency plan. Most patients were cooperative."

An initial investigation found the breakdown may have been caused when the system began transferring data at the end of the month, Yang said.

Bao Danru, deputy director of the Shanghai Human Resources and Social Security Bureau, said the breakdown was caused by a technical error as the system failed to handle the sudden increase in patient numbers.

"People just wanted to use their accounts on the last day of the fiscal year," Bao said. "I'm sorry the system was not working properly and that patients may have had to wait a long time."

Surplus money in health insurance accounts from the last fiscal year will be frozen from today, the beginning of the new fiscal year. The frozen funds can still be used, but not until this fiscal year's money has been spent.

This prompted many, mostly seniors with chronic illnesses or diseases, to see doctors and get some prescribed medicine before their funds were frozen.


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