HSE cyberattack has led to ‘trail of devastation’, says Reid

Some services put back 30 to 40 years says director general of health service

‘Work-arounds’ were being used across many services, Paul Reid said. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

‘Work-arounds’ were being used across many services, Paul Reid said. File photograph: Frank Miller/The Irish Times

 

The director general of the HSE Paul Reid has told of the “trail of devastation” experienced by the HSE following the cyberattack three weeks ago.

The impact on services had put them back 30 to 40 years in some areas, he told RTÉ radio’s Morning Ireland.

“It is beyond comprehension the impact this is having on services.”

While “work-arounds” were being managed in some areas, he said, in others there had been a need to completely rebuild networks. Good progress was being made with regard to radiology services and patient systems and some hospitals were back working internally, but could not communicate externally.

“Today we’ve made good progress on some of the key national systems like radiology, laboratories, the patient administration system, radiotherapy, oncology – all within a closed environment so what that means is a particular hospital may have a lot of those services back, but not being able to communicate externally across hospitals. Thankfully some services are back up.

“Temple Street [Children’s Hospital] has been restored and hopefully Crumlin [Children’s Hospital] today and similarly with some of their radiology imaging systems as well - so steady progress, but still going to be a few weeks to build this fall out structure back.”

The priority for the HSE was getting services back up and running and to recommence out patient appointments, Mr Reid said. Private hospitals were part of the solution. “We are working around the clock to build back services.

“We will get out the other side of this, but it will take time.”

Mr Reid said he was not aware of any further contact from the criminals who launched the cyberattack as the HSE focus had been on rebuilding services, assessing the impact and protecting data.

While the data encryption key had been provided, it did not cover “the trail of devastation they left behind and its impact on us.”

Mr Reid said that the rise in Covid-19 cases in Limerick was down to a number of factors such as outbreaks in work and social settings and households. The situation remained very volatile, he said, before adding the warning: “the virus has caught us every time we dropped our guard.”

A meeting will be held with the Minister for Health and his department on Friday, he added, to discuss the National Immunisation Advisory Committee recommendation that the length of time between the first and second doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine be reduced from 12 weeks to eight weeks, but the key factor in such a decision would remain supplies of the vaccine.