A data security crisis has severely impacted clinical care in all Waikato public hospitals, with all phones and servers offline.
To try to remedy the crisis as quickly as possible, the Waikato District Health Board has established a coordinated incident response structure.
The DHB stated that all of its information systems were down.
Dr Deborah Powell, national secretary of the Resident Doctors Association and the Association of Professional and Executive Employees (APEX), said the cyberattack was a form of ransomware known as “Conti”
It seemed to be the same kind of attack that attacked Ireland’s Department of Health last week, according to her.
Waikato, Thames, Tokoroa, Te Kuiti, and Taumaranui hospitals are all impacted to differing degrees.
According to the DHB, all patients in the hospital are being well cared for, although some outpatient services have been cancelled.
“We have engaged external assistance to address a cyber security incident affecting our Information Services environment,” the DHB said on its Facebook page.
“We are at the early stages of identifying what has happened, and are unable to provide further detail at this stage while we investigate the incident. The appropriate government authorities have been advised of the situation.”
“We are uncertain how long it will take to resolve this situation, but we are working hard to get our services back online.”
It said people affected by this would be contacted to rebook their appointments.
A staff member at Waikato Hospital told RNZ it was chaos there as nothing was working.
The staff member said they had been told it could take three hours or longer to fix.
A union representing doctors said those working at Waikato hospitals and clinics had described the ongoing systems outage as “mayhem”.
The Association of Salaried Medical Specialists said doctors had described how they were only going ahead with operations if they had printed patient notes.
The union said staff had been told the outage could take days to fix.
Meanwhile, Waikato DHB staff were told it was vitally important computers – including laptops – not be switched on again until further notice.
DHB chief executive Kevin Snee said in an email to workers personal phones that all network-connected machines had to be shut down following the attack.
He said that getting through the next few days would necessitate determination and patience from all workers.
Any employees will be incredibly busy, while those in corporate support could struggle to complete their tasks without the normal access to technology, he said.
The issue could last for a few days at least because the DHB had to insure the patch was permanent and stable, according to Snee.
The DHB asked people to only go to Waikato Hospital Emergency Department for emergencies, so it could continue to provide critical services to patients.
People trying to contact patients should consider using personal mobile phones where possible in the meantime, it said.
‘Attempted cyber incident’
According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), the “attempted cyber incident” happened overnight, and all internal services were temporarily shut down except for email.
According to MOH group manager Darren Douglass, the outage affected all health facilities across the region’s hospitals.
He stated that the Waikato DHB was collaborating closely with the MOH and IT collaborators.
“While this outage affects all Waikato DHB computers and phones, disruption to outpatient services are being kept to a minimum. Any services that have had to be postponed will be rescheduled and Waikato DHB will be contacting patients to make those new bookings.”
CERT NZ – the Computer Emergency Response Team, said it could not comment.
“Because of the sensitive nature of the reports made to CERT NZ and the need to maintain confidentiality, we don’t disclose whether or not an organisation has made a report to us. We encourage you to speak to Waikato Hospital directly.”