02/19/2015 03:48 EST | Updated 04/21/2015 05:59 EDT

$842-million health records project in B.C. faces delays, software dispute: NDP

VICTORIA - An electronic health records project estimated to cost $842 million faces completion delays and efficiency issues, B.C.'s Opposition New Democrats said Thursday, citing leaked documents.

NDP health critic Judy Darcy said the information confirms that the Clinical Systems Transformation project is behind schedule, negotiations are underway with IBM about the software, and the matter could be headed to arbitration.

Health Minister Terry Lake said he has met with senior officials involved with the project at Vancouver Coastal Health, Providence Health and the Public Health Services Authority.

Lake said he's is confident the plan to electronically align the health records and services of more than one million Metro Vancouver residents will be successful.

But Darcy said the project is missing its targets and there are troubling questions about the software. She also said Vancouver Coastal Health is contributing $72 million of its operating funds to a project that doesn't have a completion date.

"Last spring, the health minister insisted the program was on time and on budget," she said. "Does he stand by that statement or will he admit there are significant problems that are putting this entire expensive program at risk?"

Darcy cited a Jan. 29 a memo from Clinical Systems, outlining the concerns to project leadership teams, doctors and medical staff. It says the project has received a 23-week extension and plans to implement the system by September 2015 are on hold.

"Following the recent design extension, a small task force consisting of senior leaders from our health organizations and Team IBM has developed a plan that outlines additional work required to finish and validate design," said the leaked document. "In line with the contract, if the parties are not able to reach an agreement, our options will be mediation or arbitration."

The completion delay impacts several health facilities, including B.C. Women's Hospital, B.C. Children's Hospital, Sunny Hill Centre, B.C. Mental and Substance Use Services and Forensic Psychiatric Services, the memo stated.

"This extension to the design stage means no sites will go live with CST in 2015," the memo says. "No new timelines will be announced until the design stage of the project has been completed."