Royal Melbourne says XP virus is under control

Melbourne Health says the virus that infected its network over the weekend and caused major problems to the pathology department is now under control.

As reported by The Age on Monday, Royal Melbourne Hospital told staff in an email that the virus had hit the pathology department, causing staff to manually process specimens and disrupting electronic order and results entry.

Melbourne Health issued a very brief statement on Tuesday saying the organisation wanted to reassure patients that there was minimal disruption to patient services.

"Elective surgery and our emergency department are operating as normal,” it said. "There have been a very small number of outpatient cancellations. Our IT team are making good progress in rectifying the issue and we hope to be back to normal as soon as possible."

It has since superseded this with another brief statement saying it was managing the virus.

“While the virus has been disruptive to the organisation, due to the tireless work of staff we have been able to minimise this disruption to our patients and ensure patient safety has been maintained,” the statement says.

“Computers running on most of our systems are now clear of the virus and IT staff are working to restore the remaining Windows XP computers as quickly as possible.

“As of 10am [November 19], many programs affected by the virus are up and running including pathology and pharmacy.”

The head of Royal Melbourne's ICU, Chris MacIsaac, told 3AW that the virus had stopped hospital staff from accessing pathology results.

“This has slowed down the process and we have reverted to old-fashioned methods with paper-based records and phoning through and faxing results," Associate Professor MacIsaac said.

While Windows XP has not been supported by Microsoft for close to two years, many large healthcare organisations have yet to upgrade to a newer operating system due to cost or are still running XP machines to support the vast number of legacy clinical, administrative and research systems widely used in hospitals.

A Pulse+IT source said it was possible that a backdoor had been found into Melbourne Health's systems but it was very common for viruses to be introduced by visiting clinicians or researchers plugging in their personal laptop or a USB.

Posted in Australian eHealth

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