The Health Minister says the response to the ransomware attack on the Waikato District Health Board last week is being stepped up.
Andrew Little, who’s also the GCSB Minister, says the Ministry of Health is increasing its resourcing of the dedicated response team, and the Government committee that manages national security will convene today.
“Patient wellbeing and supporting the staff remains the Government’s first priority,” Little said.
Waikato DHB’s admitted it may send cancer patients to Australia, as part of its response, but that it’s a last resort.
The DHB provides the country’s second largest radiation oncology service, and the department’s clinical director, Dr Cristian Hartopeneau, says the patients receiving treatment have been contacted and alternative plans are being put in place.
“In radiation oncology we 100 per cent rely on the computer systems, so what it meant to us on Tuesday morning, we were in complete darkness.
“All our machines and all our computer systems are inoperable, we could not access any present or previous data about patients on treatment, patients we have seen” Hartopeneau said.
He said they had a basic list printed with the details of about 70 patients, who were on treatment at the time of the cyber-attack last Tuesday.
“We’ve pretty much sorted that group,” he said.
Eighteen of “the most clinically prioritised patients” have been seen at private services outside of Waikato, the Kathleen Kilgour Centre in Tauranga and the Bowen Icon Cancer Centre in Wellington.
Three patients have been transferred to Auckland DHB for urgent cancer care.
Other patients are being identified through their written consent forms on file.
“We have approximately 100 that we are confident we have identified, they will be our next wave of priority to relocate them to other centres so they can start their treatment,” Hartopeneau said.
He says there’re about 20 people they’re not sure about and is putting out a call to anyone who’s been seen at Waikato Hospital for radiation treatment, but hasn’t made contact, to please call.
“We are confident that the vast majority are captured, patients that were either on treatment or about to start treatment, but there might be some we don’t have,” he said.
DHBs right across the country are pitching in to help Waikato DHB.
Are you a radiation oncology patient affected by the Waikato DHB cyber attack? Contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Capital and Coast DHB has confirmed it’s taken 12 patients from Waikato, but not cancer patients.
The Bay of Plenty’s taken eight patients, although has not specified the departments the patients are from.
Both DHBs say they’re on standby to take more patients, as is Canterbury DHB.
Several other DHBs that regularly rely on Waikato DHBs services, including Taranaki DHB, are being forced to make other arrangements.
Gillian Campbell, Taranaki DHB’s chief operating officer, said: “We are redirecting some of our patients who require tertiary healthcare treatment to other DHBs during this time”.
Waikato DHB says while New Zealand and Australia have a long-standing arrangement to transfer patients for treatment, at this stage the service is working with key partners on all available options within New Zealand.
“Our service is working collaboratively with Te Aho o TeKahu, the Cancer Control Agency and the national advisory Radiation Oncology Working Group to develop a process for recently referred patients, those not yet receiving treatment and new referrals,” the DHB said.
“I know cancer patients will be feeling anxious at this time. I want to reassure them Te Aho o Te Kahu, the Cancer Control Agency, is working alongside Waikato DHB to ensure their much needed treatment is delivered,” said Te Aho o Te Kahu chief executive Diana Sarfati.
“My team is coordinating a national response to identify capacity around the country for patients to receive their treatment elsewhere.”
Hartopeneau says his team is working on the premise that they may not be able to be operational for another month.
Chief executive of Waikato DHB, Dr Kevin Snee, said it’s possible they may not be back in full action for another month, with no end date in sight.