June 19, 2021

Major cyber incident shuts Waikato Dist. Health Board clinical services

A major cyber security incident at Waikato District Health Board has resulted in closure of all its clinical services this morning.

This ‘full outage’ has affected all Information Services (including clinical services), crashed computers, and phone landline services causing chaos among patients and staff across the region.

The services affected are across all the “Waikato DHB hospitals (Waikato, Thames, Tokoroa, Te Kūiti and Taumarunui) to varying degrees.”

Waikato Hospital

An update was posted on the DHB’s Facebook page around 11am announcing that “Waikato DHB is currently experiencing a full outage of its Information Services…We are currently investigating the cause of this outage.

“We want to assure the public that all inpatients are continuing to receive quality care from our staff.

“Unfortunately this has meant some outpatient clinics may be cancelled as a result of this outage. Those affected will be contacted to rebook their appointments,” the statement says.

According to a DHB staff member, Kevin Snee, Waikato DHB Chief Executive had emailed staff on their personal phones informing the shut down of all network connected computers after the cyber attack. He sought “commitment and patience’ from all staff as the problem may continue for a couple of days.

The wife of a patient who had a leg surgery a day earlier, was unable to contact the Ortho department for an update, and she herself was too infirm and old to travel by herself.

“I can’t reach him (husband) on his mobile and am unable to contact any staff in his ward on landline. I’m worried,” she said.

This was confirmed by several other anxious relatives and patients who had their appointments for the day cancelled.

Jamie Strange, MP for Hamilton East has indicated his “full confidence” in Kevin Snee and his team to “navigate this challenge.”

The Labour MP assured NewsViews today that “the patients’ well-being is the health board’s focus, while also engaging with a number of groups including Health Minister, Andrew Little.”

Strange confirmed having spoken with DHB head, Snee today.

“Cyber threats have been increasing around the world, and all New Zealanders must remain vigilant in this area”, he said.

The DHB is encouraging the public to keep Waikato Hospital’s Emergency Department for emergencies only.

At this stage, it is unknown how long the situation will take to be resolved, and efforts to contact Waikato Hospital landlines have failed.