'A bit of a nightmare' - Patients wait for updates after Waikato DHB cyber attack

Patients whose surgery was cancelled because of the cyber attack affecting Waikato hospitals are anxiously waiting to find out how big the disruption will be.

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It’s affecting all clinical services to varying degrees across the DHB’s hospitals. Source: 1 NEWS

The ransomware attack on Tuesday crashed Waikato District Health Board IT systems including computers and phones, affecting Waikato, Thames, Tokoroa, Te Kuiti and Taumaranui hospitals.

Most elective surgery has been cancelled along with outpatient clinics and people have told to stay away from Emergency Departments if possible.

One patient, Tony, was flown from New Plymouth to Hamilton for an operation on his leg scheduled for yesterday and was told at 5pm it wasn't going to happen.

"I've been nil by mouth all day so no food or anything - a bit stressing," he said.

"Nothing I can do about it, just got to sit in line and wait - there's other people probably more urgent than me - just got to take it as it comes.

Another patient waiting for surgery, Vaughan, said when the cyber attack happened the wifi went out, then, it was chaos.

"It was quite funny watching everyone having to resort to paperwork.

"Everyone freaking out ... it was a bit of a nightmare for them.

"The receptionist was just pulling their hair out.

"Couldn't even get a coffee because the cafe here, it doesn't work on cash, it's cashless."

Both patients were full of praise for the staff who they said did their best in difficult circumstances.

"They did the best they could with what they had in front of them, they all worked together, everyone trying to help everyone else out and make the best of a bad situation," Vaughan said.

A doctor who worked through the mayhem, who asked for his name not to be used, said people coped in the emergency but the issues have to be resolved.

"When times come where we have to struggle and cope with different barriers that arise we just rally together so the morale for now is pretty good," the doctor said.

"But you know, these issues have to be dealt with pretty soon or else that will change."

Resident Doctors Association and Association of Professional and Executive Employees (APEX) national secretary Dr Deborah Powell said it was her understanding the cyberattack was a type of ransomware called 'Conti, the same used in an attack on the Irish Health Service which to shut down its IT system to protect it.

In 2009 the Conficker virus caused major disruption at Waikato DHB, shutting down more than 3000 computers for up to four days.

Cyber security expert Daniel Ayers said the public sector needed to start doing things differently including properly managing online security.