David Lynch, General Manager, Cavan General Hospital.

‘Movement’ on diagnostics expected this week

Some critical diagnostic services could be back online later this week as the country’s health system begins to emerge from a cyber attack that brought all its IT systems to a shuddering halt almost two weeks ago.

“The radiology should be up and running this week, which is positive; and the labs, though it won’t be as quick, we should have some solution for that hopefully soon as well,” reports Cavan General Hospital GM David Lynch.Outpatient appointments in diagnostic imaging and x-rays had been put on hold since the Department for Health and HSE systems were hacked and attacked a Ransomware virus. There have also been delays in getting blood work processed.

Cyber criminals are reportedly demanding a ransom of $20M. They are alleged to have stolen larger swathes of private patient information, some of which has been published on the Dark Web; while some people are already reporting hoax calls from people claiming to be from the HSE seeking bank details for ‘refunds’ due.

The hackers, unexpectedly, provided tech experts with a tool necessary to break the encryption of the systems last week, although the government insists no ransom was paid.

Even with the key, significant work is required to rebuild the IT system overall to prevent it from falling victim to attack once again.Mr Lynch says that the local hospital has continued all other activities as scheduled including emergency services, essential inpatient care, day care, and most outpatient surgery.“Largely speaking we’ve not cancelled much at all, if anything,” he says. This is in contrast with many of the larger hospitals that are fully digitised.

CGH still relies on a mixture of both computer and paper records. “That has saved us in this particular instance, meaning we were still able to schedule appointments, and very much ensure the day-to-day running stays on track,” said Mr Lynch.

The latest statement from the HSE is advising patients, if they have any concerns or queries, to call the hospital in advance of their appointment.

Covid vaccinations are going ahead as scheduled.

Covid tests

"Due to the cyber attack on the HSE's IT system, it is not possible at the moment to be referred for COVID-19 testing by your GP.

"If you have symptoms or do not have symptoms, you can attend your testing centre without an appointment," the HSE has said.

The close contact system is up and running and close contacts will be contacted by text with information on their appointment and are asked to follow the instructions in the text.