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HSE hack causing havoc in hospitals

Impact of cyber attack ‘bigger than Covid-19’

PUBLIC health services in Clare and the Mid-West will be impacted for a number of weeks while HSE information technology staff work around the clock dealing with the havoc wreaked by the cyber attack.
UL Hospitals’ Group, chief clinical director, Professor Brian Lenehan has stated even when all information technology systems are safe and operational, staff will still be taken up dealing with the backlog that has to be inputted into their system.
It is expected the impact of this cyber attack will continue to disrupt public health services over the coming weeks.
Professor Lenehan has revealed the impact of the cyber attack is much bigger than Covid-19, because it had adversely affected their information systems throughout the public health service.
He recalled that Covid-19 placed a focus on managing critical care and treating very sick patients, but it wasn’t as widespread as what has transpired since the cyber attack.
While urgent and emergency care continues to be delivered across the group, Professor Lenehan admitted staff are not as efficient in their work processes as they were before the cyber attack because receiving and inputting information now takes much longer and is much slower.
Commenting on presentations to the Emergency Department in University Hospital Limerick, Professor Lenehan said usually in a crisis the hospital experiences a dip in the number of patients.
However, he confirmed the number of ED attendances have stayed very high over the last two weeks as patients have to wait longer to receive their results and are waiting longer times to be seen.
He said senior managers and clinicians were participating in crisis management meetings on a daily basis at 11.30am and during the weekends to keep fully updated on the impact of the cyber attack and to manage what is a very difficut situation as efficiently as possible like they did during the Covid-19 surges.
Asked about the impact on staff, he said the current situation is hugely challenging for staff, particularly in some departments such as laboratory and radiology.
Praising the dedication and work ethic of staff who have willingly worked extra hours over the last 14 months, he said they will be due a well earned rest when the current difficulties are resolved.
The chief clinical director confirmed he had visited different departments in UHL on Monday and Wednesday afternoon to ensure staff morale was ok.
Asked about the impact on public waiting lists, Professor Lenehan said they had put initiatives in place that were reducing lists and were making good progress until non-urgent and non critical care had to be curtailed due to the cyber attack.
He appealed for people to be patient with doctors and clinicians as they worked to get services back up and running.
As an orthopaedic surgeon, he told the Clare Champion he is acutely aware of patients who may be in pain waiting long periods for hip, knee or spine surgery.
He confirmed the group’s information technology department is working around the clock seven days a week in cooperation with their colleagues at national level to get information systems back into operation.
While the group is fortunate to have a very good IT department, he explained it is a very laborious task to upload and download software on every single machine to ensure it is safe for staff to use again.
He outlined the IT staff are working very hard to get diagnostic imaging and other key information technology infrastructure fully operational and safe to use.
Professor Lenehan explained that, normally, blood tests would be back for examination within about an hour.
However, getting blood tests can now take between three and six hours, which is one example of how the lack of properly functioning information technology is impacting doctors and nurses.
He confirmed diagnostics has been adversely impacted over the past two weeks while the return to pen and paper to make a hard copy of urgent results takes much longer and is disruptive for all staff.
In a statement issued to the Clare Champion, the UL Hospitals’ Group, confirmed health services including scheduled care across the group’s six hospital sites, continues to be adversely impacted by the cyber-attack on HSE information technology systems.
All outpatient clinics, including paediatric outpatient appointments, are cancelled until further notice. Patients should not attend the hospital unless they are contacted directly about an appointment.
All elective inpatient and day case procedures have also been cancelled, with the exception of time-critical cases. Those patients will be contacted directly in advance of their procedures.
Patients whose urgent appointments are going ahead should bring with them any hospital records, documentation, medication details, or appointment letters that have their healthcare record numbers: this will assist staff with charting and tracking their treatment at this time.
These disruptions are continuing in University Hospital Limerick, University Maternity Hospital Limerick, Ennis Hospital, Nenagh Hospital, St John’s Hospital and Croom Orthopaedic Hospital
Other cancellations include endoscopy services and all diagnostics, including x-Ray, CT scans, MRI appointments and cardiac investigations.
All routine cancer review appointments at the Mid-Western Cancer Centre are also cancelled until further notice.
Anyone scheduled for an urgent review appointment for haematology or oncology should contact 061-482900 for further information.
Only urgent and time-sensitive colposcopy appointments are going ahead at University Maternity Hospital Limerick (UMHL).
All women with colposcopy appointments should make contact with us on 061-483111 before attending UMHL, so we can confirm the appointment will go ahead as scheduled.
Patients are advised to pay attention to updates as the group expects that services are likely to be further disrupted early next week.
Updates on service disruptions will be posted to the HSE Service Disruption Website at https://www2.hse.ie/services/hospital-
The group has said it is sorry for the inconvenience this causes. The decision has been taken to ensure that colposcopy appointments are prioritised for those who need them most urgently.
The antenatal clinic at UMHL continues to operate and patients are asked to attend as scheduled. The Maternity Emergency Unit will continue to operate around the clock and the appointment-only Early Pregnancy Assessment Unit continues to function.
Dr Naro Imcha, Associate Clinical Director of Maternal and Child Health, UL Hospitals’ Group, said the group would like to reassure any women with colposcopy appointments who are immediately impacted by this decision, that their appointments will be re-arranged as soon as possible as our services return to normal.
Dr Yvonne Williams has confirmed the cyber attacks is still having a disruptive impact on general practice, which still can’t receive or send any electronic referrals to public hospitals or the out-of-hours service.
The Shannon-based general practitioner urged people to take up the HPV and Shingles vaccines, as there is capacity in the public health system to safely deliver these highly effective vaccines.

By Dan Danaher

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