The master of the Rotunda Hospital says they've had a team working since 2am this morning to address a massive cyberattack targeting HSE IT systems.
The HSE has been forced to shut down its IT system as a result of the ransomware attack.
A number of hospitals are warning patients of significant disruption as a result, although the COVID-19 vaccination programme is not affected.
The Rotunda was one of the first hospitals to publicly respond, telling patients early this morning that all routine, non-urgent appointments have been cancelled as a precaution.
Rotunda Critical Emergency
Due to a serious IT issue all outpatient visits are cancelled today - unless you are at 36 weeks pregnant or later. All gynae clinics are cancelled today.
If you have any urgent concerns please attend as normal.
Further updates will follow.
— The Rotunda Hospital (@RotundaHospital) May 14, 2021
Professor Fergal Malone, Master of the Rotunda, spoke to The Pat Kenny Show about how the Dublin maternity hospital has been impacted.
He said: “Just after 2am this morning, our IT team noticed unusual activity.
"When they investigated further, they saw evidence of what’s known as a Conti ransomware virus that had come into our system somehow.
“We’ve had a team in here at the Rotunda since 2am this morning responding to this and making sure it doesn’t spread further. Then it became clear it’s not just a Rotunda [issue].”
He said staff have been manually disconnecting network jacks from the walls to ensure the computer virus doesn't spread any further.
At least 60-70 computers have evidence of having been impacted, and no computers will be linked to a network until technicians are "absolutely sure" they're secure.
Professor Malone said technicians will then "work backwards" to try to figure out where exactly the attack originated.
Impact on patients
For patients coming in who are in labour or having surgery, the Rotunda has made an immediate switch to a paperless system so care and services can continue.
However, there will be significant disruption for outpatient appointments.
Professor Malone said there is a backup system for information such as patient ID numbers of background history, but it’s “much slower” as it’s paper-based.
He explained: “Our clinical processes will just have to slow down for outpatients… that’s why we took the precautionary step today to try to cancel all non-urgent, routine appointments.
“Anyone who has a clinical need is absolutely still coming into the hospital, and is getting full care.”
He stressed that there are significant fail-safe systems in place, so patient records are safe.
He noted: “There’s significant redundancy in the system that protects our data”.
Professor Malone says he hopes the systems will be back up and running by Monday, but it's still too early to say what the exact timeline will be.