Tuesday, 15 Jun 2021

Waikato DHB cyber attack: Surgeries cancelled, rural hospitals closed to outpatients

Almost 30 operations due to take place at Waikato Hospital today and all outpatient clinics at outlying Waikato hospitals have been scrapped after a cyber attack crippled the DHB’s entire IT system.

The Waikato DHB is scrambling to restore its IT system after a cyber incident shut it down yesterday suspending its emails, phone lines and limiting access to patient files.

A forensic investigation into the cause is under way but it appears the virus accessed the DHB’s systems via an email attachment, a Waikato DHB statement released today said.

Some 29 of the 102 elective surgeries planned for inpatients at Waikato Hospital today have been cancelled along with all elective surgeries at Thames Hospital.

All outpatient activity at the Waikato DHB’s rural hospitals – including Thames, Tokoroa and Te Kuiti – has also been postponed.

It comes after six of 101 elective surgeries were scrapped yesterday.

Anyone with queries about the urgency of their outpatient appointment should contact their GP, the statement said.

Waikato DHB staff along with some government departments are working to restore the infected systems but it was a “complex process which will take more time to resolve”. It had also enlisted the help of external cyber security experts.

“We currently have business continuity plans in place to keep our services running into the weekend.”

Emergency Departments at all the Waikato DHB’s hospitals were open for emergencies only and anyone else was being referred to their GP or local urgent care centre.

A spokesman for the National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) – a branch of the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) – confirmed staff were providing support to Waikato DHB following yesterday’s attack.

The spokesman said the NCSC’s role was to help protect New Zealand organisations of national significance “from advanced, persistent, primarily state-sponsored, cyber security threats”.

“We are very conscious that malicious cyber actors can monitor public commentary on an incident and for this reason, while the investigation and remediation efforts are ongoing, we will not provide additional details regarding its cause or the response to it.”

Police are also making initial inquiries into the cyber attack, a police media spokesperson said.

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