Hospitals are still operating with “one hand tied behind their back” as the cyberattack on the health service could take several months to fully fix, Health Service Executive (HSE) chief executive Paul Reid has signalled.
While a “very significant number” of systems were back up after last month’s ransomware attack, Mr Reid said there remains “reasonable constraints on our hospital and community services”.
Some are still unable to access real-time information on patients or transfer information between hospitals.
While progress has been made restoring an information system that links GPs to the health service, Mr Reid said “in many cases many of our hospitals have one hand tied behind their back”.
Speaking to RTÉ’s Morning Ireland, he suggested it could take as long as six months for the systems to fully recover.
“I spoke to a lot of organisations who have been through a cyberattack in the UK,” he said.
“The Environmental Protection Agency in Scotland – [there was] six months of an impact in terms of fully getting all of the services stabilised.
“So we are weeks into it.
“I appreciate people’s forbearance with us, and patients are being very supportive of us, but we are still working this through and we are making good progress every week.”
Mr Reid urged anyone waiting for a second dose of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine to make an appointment as the programme escalates over the coming weeks.
The HSE is administering about 100,000 second jabs of the vaccine every week, and expects to have worked through the 450,000 still waiting for another dose by the middle of July.
Mr Reid said a second dose gives 92 per cent protection against hospitalisation for the more infectious Delta variant of Covid-19.
With around 3.25 million doses of all vaccines administered in Ireland to date, around 58 per cent of the population have received one jab and 28 per cent have had both.
Mr Reid expects the percentage figures to rise into the high 60s for one dose and “well into” the 30s for two doses by early July.
“The benefits we are seeing are extremely strong already,” he said.
“Today, we have 55 positive inpatient cases in hospital with Covid, and 23 in ICU.
“Just remember the dark days in January when there were 2,000 people in hospital and over 212 in ICUs.”
He added: “While we have that concern about the Delta variant, I think we should stand back and recognise the very strong benefits we are seeing from the vaccination programme.”
On Wednesday, the Department of Health reported 329 new confirmed cases of Covid-19 in the State. On Twitter, the department said there were 57 patients in hospital with the virus, of which 19 were in intensive care.
Meanwhile, Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said that while the Government is keeping a close eye on the spread of the Delta Covid-19 variant, the plan is to proceed with all stages of reopening, including a return to the office, in August.
“We always have to keep a very close eye on the epidemiological situation. This virus has ripped up our plans on many occasions in the past. What is reassuring is, at least here in Ireland, is the numbers are also going in the right direction, cases are going down, hospitalisations are going down, more people are getting vaccinated and doubled jabbed every day. In England, we are watching the situation very carefully.
“The numbers seem to be around 7,000 a day and haven’t gone up much in recent days. But that could change very dramatically, you have to keep a close eye on the situation but as things stand for now the plan is to proceed with the July reopening as planned, international travel restrictions on July 19th. And then a further relaxation in August and among the things under consideration for August is a phased return to the office. So level two allows for people to return to the office for training induction and for meetings, while level one is a staggered phased return to the office. It will be the end of June when we have a Cabinet meeting that will be able to work on that.”
Mr Varadkar said he would be “very reluctant” to go down a road where employers would require employees to have vaccinations.
“It’s never been a requirement that employees or people have to tell their employers private medical information, and you’d want to have a really strong overwhelming public health case for that to change.”