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‘We don’t know where we stand’


SERIOUS SITUATION General Manager of Mayo University Hospital Catherine Donohue has said staff and management are working hard to maintain service for in-patients and time-critical day services.

Confusion and worry for doctors and patients after HSE hack

Michael Gallagher

Medical services in Mayo are still reeling after last Friday morning’s ransomware attack on the HSE IT systems created chaos. The crippling attack has blocked access to patients’ files and diagnostic services, leaving an information vacuum which is causing serious stress across Mayo and throughout the region.
Belmullet-based GP, Dr Fergal Ruane, told The Mayo News the lack of solid information about the shock attack has left patients in a very vulnerable position.
“People are extremely worried that their confidential medical information has been compromised. This is causing a lot of worry in the community and nobody knows what to tell them just yet.
“There are so many unknowns around this. We send patient referrals to the hospital electronically and now we’re wondering whether the referrals we’ve sent in for the past week have actually been received. The system prompts us to to say it has been received but because of this hack we don’t know where we stand at the moment,” the well-known medic explained.
Doctors throughout the county have been told to only send urgent blood samples to the laboratory in Mayo University Hospital as patients’ electronic files cannot be accessed.
“They’ll only accept ‘urgent’ bloods and that’s very understandable, but what’s classified as urgent? Even simple things such as if we’ve changed someone’s blood pressure medication and we want to chase up the results - these are delayed. Something big can be missed and that’s very worrying,” Dr Ruane continued.
The impact of the systems hack has resulted in almost all outpatient clinics being cancelled in Mayo University Hospital. There is no access to electronic records and even those attending the hospital’s Emergency Department are urged to bring along an old letter with a hospital ID number on it to help in the location of files.
General Manager of Mayo University Hospital Catherine Donohue said the situation is a serious one and staff and management are working hard to maintain service for in-patients and time-critical day services.
“We’ve had to cancel all non-urgent treatments, but all aspects of maternity services are maintained, because they’re time critical. Things like oncology services, day chemo-therapy treatments and renal dialysis are also going ahead.
“All our in-patient services are being managed and we’re trying to make sure we keep the focus on this because they’re the most acutely unwell patients in the county.
“The pressure is on our laboratories and diagnostic services to try and do manual reporting where they would normally have that on a system with appropriate scans and all of that. All that was done with the assistance of electronic systems is now being manually done.
“However, we are encouraging patients who require emergency services to attend our Emergency Department, accepting the fact that there is now a longer delay in regard to registration,” Ms Donohue added.
When the problem will be fixed is currently unknown according to the HSE’s Chief Operations Officer Anne O’Connor, who admitted the system may be out of action for the rest of the week.
She told RTÉ News the system will be down for ‘several days’ and that’s if ‘it goes well’.
“The reality is our system at a wider level will be impacted, we believe, for this week.
“We are some way off having systems back. It will be several days,” Ms O’Connor said.
In Belmullet, Dr Ruane says people will have to adapt and do the best they can until things are back to normal.
“We’ll have to go back to the bad old days of the pen and paper, but we’ll work together for the good of our patients and keep going,” he added.