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Wednesday 6 December 2023 Dublin: 8°C
ransomware attack

Covid-19: GP and close contact referral system down, patients advised to attend walk-in centres

GPs are to advise patients to attend walk-in testing centres with priority given to symptomatic and close contacts at these centres.

LAST UPDATE | May 14th 2021, 12:43 PM

IRELAND’S GP AND Close Contact referral system is currently down following a major ransomware attack on the HSE’s IT systems. 

The Health Service Executive has shut down its IT systems after a “significant ransomware attack”, in what the HSE chief executive called a “major incident” for the health service.

The HSE was made aware of the attack during the night, and it is currently being contained by shutting down all national and local IT systems in order to protect them. 

As a result of the attack GPs are to advise patients to attend walk-in testing centres with priority given to symptomatic and close contacts at these centres, the HSE said this morning.

If a person had a scheduled test today this will go ahead, however tests are not available through GPs. 

The HSE is advising people with symptoms to call their GP who may then refer them to a walk-in centre. Close contacts can also use these centres. 

In a statement, the HSE said: “We have moved all contact tracing to two of our contact tracing sites which remain operational.

“Contact tracers will call you with detected results  and will gather the required data. Importantly they will gather close contact information and call close contacts to ask them to attend a walk in site for testing. This process may take longer than usual and we appreciate the public’s patience as we work through this.”

The HSE has said if a person if awaiting a test result their result will still be processed in its laboratories but there may be some delay in a person receiving their result. 

“It is critical that anyone who is awaiting a Covid-19 test result self-isolates until they receive their test result. This is an important change from the usual restricting movements advice.”

In addition to walk-in centres, anyone who feels they might have symptoms can attend any HSE static testing sites without a GP referral.

A list of HSE walk-in centres can be found here

HSE CEO Paul Reid described the ransomware attack as a “major incident” for the health service, and is a “human-operated” cyber attack. He said that information technology systems and data stored on, and transferred across, central servers is being targeted.

A ransom demand has not yet been made.

Equipment in intensive care units, and other ‘standalone’ infrastructure in hospitals, has not been affected by the attack.

“We are at the very early stages of fully understanding the threat, the impacts,” Reid said on RTÉ’s Morning Ireland. He said there would be an update on what the attack means for the healthcare system’s services later in the morning.

“[For now] everyone should continue to come forward [for hospital appointments] until they hear something different from us, in terms of services impacted.”

Reid said the vaccination programme has not been affected by the attack. 



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