Computer virus takes toll on Sudbury hospital
January 23, 2019
SUDBURY, Ont. – A computer virus at Health Sciences North led the hospital to shut down various medical systems to avoid the problem from spreading. Staff at the hospital in Sudbury called it a “zero-day virus,” meaning a virus that is was not recognized or captured by the anti-virus tools on the market.
As a result, “We put all our systems on downtime to avoid any [further] contamination of the systems at HSN,” said Dominic Giroux (pictured), CEO of Health Sciences North.
Giroux noted that, “All 24 hospitals in the region rely on our information technology platform or systems, one way or the other,” he said. For that reason, preventive measures were taken to shut down certain systems at those hospitals, to make sure the virus didn’t spread.
Out of 24 hospitals, the following were affected:
- 21 hospitals had their main electronic medical records (Meditech) on downtime.
- 12 had their Mosaiq cancer program systems on downtime.
- 10 had their medical imaging systems on downtime.
- 4 had their email and office software on downtime.
Giroux told CBC News the virus came from another hospital in the region. “But because all hospitals in the region rely on our platform, once it reached HSN we took all the preventive measures to avoid contamination,” he said. “Those preventive measures were successful.”
Giroux says the virus hasn’t corrupted any data, it hasn’t resulted in a privacy breach and there’s been no request for ransom.
“It is really one system, our cancer program system, where the virus did infect the system,” he said.
“But we had good backup data, so we will be able to restore information.”
When those systems are restored, appointments for treatment will be booked. Giroux says although the cancer centre usually isn’t open on weekends, appointments would be booked on the weekend to address the backlog.
As for the impact on hospital operations, Giroux says it slows down the efficiency of the hospital. For example, he says patients can usually get tests done and the results are readily available in the system.
“That automation is no longer available,” he said.
“The information needs literally to be walked across the hospital or across various sites.”
As a result, the hospital was encouraging patients with non-urgent situations to consider going to a walk-in clinic or Telehealth.
In a statement, the hospital said:
HSN is currently experiencing technical difficulties which are impacting our IT systems, which began at 8:00 on Wednesday morning. Our IT team has identified a computer virus as the cause of these problems. We do not know yet how our IT systems came to be infected with this virus. However, we are actively working with several IT experts, including McAfee, to rectify this situation as soon as possible.
This virus has impacted several of our internal software systems. The quality of patient care is not impacted. This disruption may cause delays with some of our programs, longer wait times in the Emergency Department.
Certain elective procedures and surgeries in the next 24 – 48 hours may be rescheduled. In addition, chemotherapy and radiation therapy treatments have been cancelled today and tomorrow at the North East Cancer Centre and satellite clinics. Patients are in the process of being rescheduled for treatment later this week and into the weekend. Those patients impacted will be notified.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. To ease congestion in our Emergency Department during this time, the public is reminded there are alternative care options available in the community including walk-in clinics and Telemedicine.
HSN remains open and accessible to the public and continues to provide quality care for its patients.