The Sǎo Joǎo Hospital in the Portuguese city of Porto will replace its existing proprietary suite of office tools with OpenOffice, a free and open source alternative, according to a report published by the weekly magazine Expresso on 17 March. The newspaper reports the hospital is the "first to challenge the abusive monopoly from the proprietary software vendor".
The office suites are identical and the migration does not require much investment or training, the newspaper cites Joǎo Oliveira, IT administrator at the hospital. He estimates the migration will take about one year.
The decision to replace the proprietary office suite follows a row between the hospital and a vendor of the proprietary office suite, also involving the Ministry of Health and a government inspection agency (ASAE, the Autoridade de Segurança Alimentar e Económica).
Expresso reports that the Ministry of Health in 2011 paid 7.5 million euro for proprietary software licences for all forty hospitals in the National Health Service. The proprietary software vendor however is apparently redoing its cost-calculations, and audited the Sǎo Joǎo Hospital, after which it sent an invoice of one million euro.
The purpose of the ASEA visit was to inspect the proprietary software licences, writes Expresso.
Four hospitals in the region of Porto have asked the Ministry to negotiate with the proprietary vendor on their behalf, but the vendor is adamant, stating it deals with the hospitals on an individual basis only, Expresso reports. "The Ministry can take a negotiation position that the hospitals will never get", the paper cites Oliveira, who says he has emails from the company refusing to negotiate with the Ministry and stating that the hospitals have to purchase the licence keys directly from the vendor.
The newspaper quotes a spokesperson from the IT vendor denying the accusations from the hospital, warning that it wants to be paid for the use of its intellectual property. The company is entitled to require hospitals to "pay for the use of their software, and regulate improper use to avoid illegal situations."
The Ministry of Health on Friday explained that the country's hospitals are mainly state-owned enterprises, that are free to make use of the procurement contracts negotiated by the Ministry, or not. In an emailed statement, the Ministry said: "Hospital Sǎo Joǎo chose to move towards non IP-products (sic). That is a general direction for the Portuguese public administration, according to the Law. Other hospitals may choose the same path and the Ministry will support their boards and IT directors in smoothing their path."