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Children's hospitals ask patients not to attend at units unless invited as they deal with cyber attack

Children’s Health Ireland computer technicians is working through 230 infected IT systems and 2,500 PCs.

Image: PA

THE COUNTRY’S CHILDREN’S hospitals have asked patients not to attend appointments unless they have received contact from the facilities.

The hospitals have said that the move has been made to enable technicians deal with the cyber-attack and a large volume of inpatients.

Dr Eilish Hardiman, CEO of Children’s Hospital Ireland which includes Temple Street and Crumlin hospitals, said that 80% of the group’s computer system was infected by the ransomware which struck 20 days ago.

Hardiman, speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland, said that outpatient public and private clinics are cancelled at Temple Street, Crumlin and Tallaght hospitals.

“We’re into day 20 of this incident from the criminal cyber-attack, the impact has been varied across the healthcare system, and also our ability to recover.

“So Children’s Health Ireland, and the Children’s hospitals particularly Crumlin and Temple Street, have been more severely impacted than others and we are seeking the public support and helping us to deal with the next week.

“Within Children’s Health Ireland we would have had about 230 IT systems and about 2,500 PCs and almost 80% of this infrastructure was infected by this attack.

“Some of them are 100% in practice, so that means that now we are in the process of having to assess repair, restore and replace, and we’re 50% through that particular effort of work.

“We have very old IT infrastructure, particularly in Crumlin and Temple Street, so even when we get one part of our IT infrastructure up it impacts on an other part that was up and it goes down so this is very laborious work,” she said. 

Hardiman said that Defence Forces experts were in the hospitals assisting with the to restore the computer systems.

She said along with the cyber attack the hospitals were also close to capacity at between 90% and 95% capacity. 

To deal with the cyber attack and the level of patient attendances Hardiman said that they had put in place a system to deal with the problem. 

“The hospitals will contact you if you’re scheduled to come in and that’s because it’s deemed by the clinicians that you need to attend either there or some of our national services or they are time critical.

“We would ask the public to actually attend if they’re contacted and we’re sorry that some people will have to be canceled and we know that the waiting lists but we will try and get those back up as soon as when we’re back up.

“Only those who are contacted should come in,” she added. 

Hardiman said that it is hoped that outpatient administration should be effective from the end of next week and cancelled appointments will then be rescheduled. 

A HSE source told The Journal that a number of departments, which were worst hit, have seen some systems come back online. 

These include emails and other files which were locked. Administration personnel were continuing to use pen and paper while old paper based files were also being sourced.

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95,000 individual computers and laptops were being worked through by IT specialists across the HSE – their systems were being wiped and then reinstalled. 

A garda source said that interactions between Tusla and the force were also being conducted using paper forms as email referrals were not working as yet.

Meanwhile, the Irish Cancer Society is due before the Oireachtas Health Committee where it is expected to say that the HSE cyberattack has been worse for some cancer services than the pandemic.

The presentation, as reported in the Irish Examiner, will be given by Averil Power, ICS CEO, and is expected to reveal that rapid-access clinics are particularly effect. 

Speaking at the same committee this morning, Dr Clive Kilgallon of the Irish Medical Organisation, explained the impact of the pandemic on cancer services. 

“In March and April 2020, during the first wave, rapid access clinics for breast and lung cancer saw referrals fall by a third and referrals for prostate cancer fall by half. While referrals have recovered, they remain significantly below 2019 levels particularly for lung and prostate cancer.

“Many patients also experienced delays in accessing services. In September 2020 just 60% of new patients attending Rapid Access Breast, Lung and Prostate Clinics were seen within the recommended timeframe. 

“More recent figures show that for the first three months this year 450 people per month were not seen within the recommended 4 weeks for an urgent colonoscopy rose – compared to 15 per month pre-covid,” he said.

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