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Waikato DHB set to restart radiation therapy next week following cyber attack

Waikato DHB is set to have its radiotherapy service back up and running by the middle of next week, with more "significant steps" towards recovery planned for this weekend.

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Hundreds of patients have been transferred elsewhere for care. Source: 1 NEWS

The DHB initially said it would take just days to restore IT systems after a ransomware attack, but it’s now been offline for more than 10 days.

Hundreds of patients have been sent elsewhere for care, with radiation oncology the worst hit department.

Chief executive of the DHB, Dr Kevin Snee, said when radiation therapy' is back in action next week, it won't be at full capacity and some patients will still need to be sent to other centres for treatment.

He said, that it would be "to deal with the backlog that's been created."

A total of 62 patients are currently undergoing radiation therapy treatment at private facilities in Wellington and Tauranga, with more patients set to begin treatment on Monday.

The DHB's executive director, Dr Chris Lowry, says a number of patients requiring cardiac surgery are also being transferred to other centres.

Four have been sent to Auckland and the DHB's identified a number that will go to private facilities for their care.

Health Minister Andrew Little toured Waikato Hospital yesterday, for the first time since the cyber attack, to see the extent of the problem for himself.

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Waikato DHB confirms hacked data leak sent to media organisations appears to be genuine

"They're operating well and safely, even if it is below par, and in terms of the recovery effort, I'm satisfied with the progress being made," he said.

"Services are able to come online from next week, some services, but we're still a long way to go in terms of finding out how what happened happened, and really understanding the full impact of it."

The Ministry of Health's Deputy Director-General of Data and Digital, Shayne Hunter, has also visited the DHB.

"When I came here a week ago, I have to say I was very impressed with firstly, the fact the DHB was operating, well able to operate without a lot of IT systems at all... but I think as Kevin's mentioned, there's still a way to go.

"The DHB took steps to protect themselves from any further infection, they took steps from infecting the health system, they've then been working through a very methodical process of recreating the technical environments that they need to run, they've made progress in terms of the number of environments they've been able to restore," said Hunter.

He described it as the most significant cyber attack any New Zealand organisation's had.

"Last week the Ministry provided DHBs with more specific information so they could further increase their resilience to the type of attack which has affected Waikato DHB.

"All the DHBs have confirmed they've taken those steps," said Hunter.

Little told media: "We're wanting the same from the [primary health organisations] as well, we've got 30 PHOs, 17 have provided that assurance and the Ministry is working with the remaining 13."

The Privacy Commissioner, John Edwards, has warned the group responsible for the hack, "are likely to publish and circulate the information further."

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Andrew Little says a total of 680 servers need to be recovered before the DHB is out of the woods. Source: Breakfast

"If you receive personal information which is about other people, you should inform the Ministry of Health and NZ Police," he said.

The DHB is in the process of identifying and contacting individuals whose data was leaked to some media organsiations earlier this week.

It has set up an 0800 number for those with privacy concerns, 0800 561 234, which received 11 related calls on Thursday.

It had six more calls yesterday.

Snee said "the issues [callers] wanted to know about, was whether their data's been accessed, how will they know the data's been accessed, when will they know and more information about what they might do to protect themselves."

DHBs and private facilities across the country remain on standby to assist Waikato DHB, if needed.

In a statement today, the DHB's reminding people to keep its Emergency Departments, across its five hospitals, for true emergencies.

"Emergency Departments can be busier than usual during weekends, " the statement read. 

"If you need immediate or urgent help, please call 111. If it is not an emergency, please phone Healthline on 0800 611 116, visit your GP or local urgent care centre."