Windows virus at Royal Melbourne brings down pathology dept

Melbourne Health has confirmed that a virus has infected some of the computer systems at Royal Melbourne Hospital, severely affecting the transmission of pathology results.

The Age newspaper broke the story on Monday, reporting that a virus had infected computers still running on Windows XP, support for which ended in April 2014.

Melbourne Health has since issued a statement saying the virus was under control.

According to an email from the executive director of nursing, Denise Heinjus, seen by The Age, the virus was causing delays in processing microbiology and anatomical pathology specimens.

Only urgent pathology specimens were being processed with manual work-arounds implemented. Staff were asked to call or send a fax if they required urgent results.

"IT is currently implementing a network-wide solution to this virus," the email said. "This will take some time so staff must not attempt to fix the problem themselves."

On Tuesday, Melbourne Health issued a brief statement but did not provide any detail on what the virus was, how it was introduced or what systems it affected.

"Melbourne Health would like to reassure all of our patients and community that there are minimal disruptions to patient services today," the statement says. "Elective surgery and our emergency department are operating as normal.

"There have been a very small number of outpatient cancellations. Our staff have worked tirelessly over the past couple of days to maintain patient safety and ensure minimal disruption. Our IT team are making good progress in rectifying the issue and we hope to be back to normal as soon as possible."

The hospital uses a number of clinical systems, including the iPM patient administration system from CSC along with an emergency department patient record called Symphony from UK firm EMIS, but there is no overall electronic medical record.

It is currently implementing an enterprise content management (ECM) system that involves digitising paper medical record information as a step towards an EMR.

It is also getting ready to roll out a new laboratory information system from PJA Solutions - now known as Citadel Health - to replace multiple legacy systems. Austin Health and the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre are also implementing this system.

Melbourne Health has been approached for comment but is not returning calls.

In addition to the Parkville campus of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Melbourne Health includes the North West Dialysis Service, North Western Mental Health, and the Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, now part of the Peter Doherty Institute.

If you know any more, you can leave an anonymous tip here.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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