Hospitals in the West and North-West have seen more than 20,000 appointments cancelled over the past two weeks as a result of the ransomware attack on the HSE’s IT systems.
Around 1,500 appointments a day are being cancelled across hospitals in the Saolta Group, which includes Mayo University Hospital. Saolta Chief Tony Canavan has warned that disruption to services is set to continue.
“Things have improved a little bit in terms of our access to IT systems across all of the hospitals but there is still significant impact which means that from a patient service point of view for some of our hospitals the arrangements will still be the same this week as they have been for the previous two weeks with significant delays and cancellations across various departments,” said the Saolta CEO.
“We are going to have problems with our IT systems for a number of weeks yet. The real issue for us is that we are trying to get back to the stage where we can get back to giving as much service as we possibly can. That’s what we are really focussing on this week, trying to give as much service as we possibly can to patients,” he added.
The vast majority of cancellations relate to outpatient appointments. These schedules are set up months in advance. The remainder were for diagnostic tests such as CT and MRI scans, and endoscopy tests, in addition to some elective surgical procedures. Worryingly a significant number of radiotherapy appointments for cancer patients have had to be cancelled.
Mr Canavan said manual workarounds to some of the problems encountered worked for a few days but the longer the IT shutdown continues the more difficult life gets for staff and patients.” The problem is that you are accumulating risk and problems with every day that goes by,” he stated.
The cyber attack has created a further backlog in waiting lists that had built up even before Covid-19 struck.
“Long before there was Covid we had problems with waiting lists for a wide variety of procedures, both outpatients and inpatient appointments, and of course Covid had an impact on that as well. We were just starting to put in place our plans to try and address that and now this (the ransomware attack) has added further to that list. Whenever we get the other side of this there will be a job of work to do to try and catch up,”said Mr Canavan.