Nfld. & Labrador

Opposition says government has ignored warnings about Meditech system for years

Opposition leader David Brazil says the Newfoundland and Labrador government has been ignoring internal and external warnings about the age of its system for storing electronic health records for years.

Premier Andrew Furey calls system 'problematic'

PC Opposition leader David Brazil says the provincial government has been ignoring warnings about the age of its Meditech system. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

PC Opposition leader David Brazil says the Newfoundland and Labrador government has been ignoring internal and external warnings about the age of its system for storing electronic health records for years.

On Tuesday, the last day of the House of Assembly fall session, Brazil said there have been documented warnings about the aging system by multiple individuals — some of whom he believes may soon go public.

"There's been information passed on internally and externally, too, saying that there are challenges within the system there, that it could be hacked very easily," Brazil said.

According to the Meditech website, the Newfoundland and Labrador government chose the system as its preferred health-care information system nearly 40 years ago. The system has been upgraded as technology has changed, but Brazil said the current version is outdated. 

Premier Andrew Furey, an orthopedic surgeon, told reporters the Meditech system is a problem, and he is aware of its age. He said the government may consider an overhaul.

"This is a great … time for us to reflect on the system and see if it's the one that we want to go forward with," he said.

CBC News has asked Meditech for comment.

Justice Minister John Hogan said the investigation hasn't found any evidence that the Meditech system is connected to the cause of the attack.

Premier Andrew Furey, left, said the Meditech system is 'problematic,' and the government may review it. Justice Minister John Hogan said there is no evidence that the system is related to the attack. (Mark Quinn/CBC)

"The investigation will keep looking into what happened and as soon as we have information that we're able to reveal to the public about that, we will," he said.

Brazil said individuals familiar with the health-care system have told him that the investigators likely know exactly how the attack occurred and where it originated, but officials aren't saying.

"There's more information that's not being shared than the information that is being shared right now," he said.

Cyberattack details still scarce

So far, officials have not shared details on the nature of the cyberattack, how the attack was able to occur or who is behind it. 

The RCMP and the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner have both opened investigations.

Sources have told CBC News that the attack is a ransomware attack, a cybersecurity incident where a hacker takes control of a system, and returns control only after a ransom has been paid. Government officials have refused to say if there was a ransom demand. 

On Monday, Health Minister John Haggie said the government is sharing only select information because it does not want to jeopardize the investigation or give other potential hackers ideas.

Brazil, along with NDP Leader Jim Dinn, have called for more transparency from the government multiple times since the cyberattack more than two weeks ago.

On Tuesday, Brazil accused the government of using stall tactics to avoid sharing information.

"What I've been told is that there's additional information out there that … should not necessarily need to be hidden because it's stuff that anybody in the industry would already know is happening," he said.

Hogan said the Information and Privacy Commissioner's investigation will likely review the current health-care IT systems and recommend any necessary upgrades.

More Eastern Health services back online

In a media release Tuesday evening, Eastern Health said a number of acute services impacted by the cyberattack will resume this week.

According to the regional health authority, all children's and women's health services, cancer-care services and out-patient ambulatory services will be proceeding. Patients will be contacted to confirm appointments, said Eastern Health.

The statement said patients with cardiac and critical-care appointments, regional surgical appointments, and endoscopy appointments scheduled for this week will be contacted directly.

Only urgent echocardiograms will be proceeding, and patients will be contacted directly to schedule appointments, said Eastern Health.

Last Friday, all four health authorities announced the resumption of blood collection and medical imaging services.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

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