Virus affecting IT system at Health Sciences North impacting health care across the region

The head of Health Sciences North says various medical systems at the hospital in Sudbury and other hospitals throughout the region have been shut down to avoid damage from a computer virus.

Hospital in Sudbury hit with IT virus Wednesday morning

On Wednesday, a computer virus started to affect the information technology systems at Health Sciences North in Sudbury, Ont. (supplied)

The head of Health Sciences North says various medical systems at the hospital in Sudbury and other hospitals throughout the region have been shut down to avoid damage from a computer virus.

On Thursday morning, staff at the hospital in Sudbury identified a "zero-day virus" potentially contaminating the system.

"By zero-day virus, I mean that it is a virus that is not captured by the current anti-virus tools that are available on the market," Dominic Giroux, CEO of Health Sciences North said.

"As a safety measure, we put all our systems on downtime to avoid any contamination of the systems at HSN."

He says that step helped to avoid contaminating the systems at other hospitals across northeastern Ontario.

"All 24 hospitals in the region rely on our information technology platform or systems, one way or the other," he said.

Giroux says to protect those other hospitals, preventative measures have been taken to shut down certain systems to make sure the virus doesn't spread.

He says out of 24 hospitals, the following have been affected:

  • 21 hospitals have their main electronic medical records on downtime.
  • 12 have their cancer program systems on downtime.
  • 10 have their medical imaging systems on downtime.
  • 4 have their email and office software that may be on downtime.

Giroux says the virus came from another hospital in the region.

"But because all hospitals in the region rely on our platform, once it reached HSN we took all the preventive measures to avoid contamination," he said.

"Those preventive measures were successful."

Dominic Giroux is the CEO of Health Sciences North in Sudbury. (Markus Schwabe/CBC)

Giroux says the virus hasn't corrupted any data, it hasn't resulted in a privacy breach and there's been no request for ransom.

"It is really one system, our cancer program system, where the virus did infect the system," he said.

"But we had good backup data, so we will be able to restore information. So we're confident that by Friday, we will begin restoring our most major systems for Health Sciences North."

Rescheduling appointments

When those systems are restored, appointments for treatment will be booked. Giroux says although the cancer centre usually isn't open on weekends, appointments will be booked this Saturday and Sunday to address the backlog.

As for the impact on hospital operations, Giroux says it slows down the efficiency of the hospital.

For example, he says patients can usually get tests done and the results are readily available in the system.

"That automation is no longer is available," he said.

"The information needs literally to be walked across the hospital or across various sites."

As a result, Giroux says the hospital is encouraging patients with non-urgent situations to consider going to a walk-in clinic or Telehealth.


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