Systems shutdown as hospital attacked by virus

| 13/09/2009

(CNS): The Health Services Authority’s Information Systems were attacked by what officials described as  a malicious computer virus last week, which reportedly prompted an emergency shutdown of all major systems to isolate and eradicate the virus, known as ‘Conficter’. The hospital admitted on Friday afternoon to the attack which disrupted services throughout Thursday. In a statement, HSA Chief Executive Officer Lizzette Yearwood said that in the face of the attack the hospital activated its emergency procedures to ensure patient care was not impacted.

“Some of our patients did experience unusually longer waiting times initially, and for that we sincerely apologize; however we deployed additional personnel and technical resources to all clinical areas to minimize any downtime and ensure that our patients are given priority. All patient areas are now fully functional,” she added.

Yearwood explained that some non-essential areas of the hospital were taken offline while technical staff worked diligently to scan, isolate and restore the integrity of the more than 300 PCs on the hospital network before reconnection to the main network. She indicated that when the virus was first discovered on Thursday, the IT team did not think it was so widespread.

“Our initial assessment indicated that the virus was contained in specified areas. However, as more employees returned to office and logged on, we discovered that the virus was more widespread and therefore took the prudent decision to shut down the entire system and undertake a more comprehensive effort to secure and restore our network,” the CEO said.

The new HSA Chief Information Officer Dale Sanders who had started only the week before on 7 September, said that the issue highlighted the need for additional IT security measures at the HSA.

“We have learned invaluable lessons from the experience and those will be put in place to improve the integrity and functionality of the IT systems as part of a new information systems strategic plan going forward,” the new IT boss said denying that patient electronic records were at risk.

 “These are secured in a much deeper way and on other networks with additional layers of security and more powerful tools to thwart intrusion and virus attacks because of the implications and confidentiality of these records,” he claimed.

Given the situation it was no surprise that Yearwood was grateful Sanders was around.

“We are glad to have Mr. Sanders onboard. He will lead the HSA’s efforts to restore our computer network and ensure that the HSA maintains a reliable and robust clinical and management information system capable of meeting the demands and challenges of a modern healthcare organization,” she stated.

Prior to joining the HSA, Sanders was Vice President and Chief Information Officer of the Chicago-based Northwestern Medical Faculty Foundation at Northwestern University which is affiliated with the 897-bed Northwestern Memorial Hospital.  HSA officials said he also worked with Intermountain Health Care (IHC) where he was the Regional Director of Information Systems and Medical Informatics for four hospitals and numerous ambulatory clinics in the Salt Lake City area. 

“I am excited at the opportunity to bring my experience to this vibrant organization and I looked forward to working with a superb team of professionals to help make the Health Services a world class organization,” he said.

According to the HSA press office while at IHC, he was also the Chief Architect of the IHC Enterprise Data Warehouse, recipient of five prestigious industry awards in the United States for contributions to healthcare quality and cost reduction. His background includes 8 years as an Information Systems Consultant and Vice President of Information Technology International.

His customers included Intel, Motorola, IBM, the US Army and Air Force, the National Security Agency, and many others. From 1983 through 1989, he was a Captain in the US Air Force where he specialized in the design and operation of battle management and decision support systems associated with strategic nuclear warfare. He was named "Information Systems Officer of the Year" in 1986. He has a Bachelor’s Degree in Chemistry and Biology, and a Certificate of Information Systems Engineering from the US Air Force.


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  1. THite says:

    That’s "our" Dale!  You are very lucky to have him!