On Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 2 a.m., Michael Garron Hospital (MGH) received a call from one of our IT (information technology) staff that a virus, later identified as malware (a strain of Ryuk virus), had entered into our servers and was affecting the functionality of many of our major computer systems, including both clinical and administrative applications.
As soon as we became aware of the virus, we proactively took down a number of information systems to investigate the issue, prevent the spread of further damage and protect patient and staff information.
How did this happen?
While we continue to assess the full extent of the issue, we know the virus started on an MGH computer. We have the computer in our possession and much work has gone into the containment of the virus. I also want to clarify that while this virus has been described as a type of “ransomware”, we have not been in contact with anyone about payment, and our teams – and only our teams – are in control of our systems and data.
No patient or staff privacy has been compromised; however, we know that some data has been damaged. We’re in the process of determining what information we can recover and are working with the appropriate staff and leaders to assess the impact.
We’re also very grateful to all of our partner hospitals that have sent IT support, including North York General Hospital, CAMH, St. Michael’s Hospital and St. Joseph’s Health Centre Toronto.
What has been the impact to the hospital?
Since last week, our IT teams have been working 24/7 to restore a number of our systems that are critical to daily operations of the hospital. For the first time in many years, our clinical teams were forced to revert back to predominantly paper processes and using the telephone to call codes, access porters, check dietary orders, etc. While we hope these types of situations never take place, our expert hospital teams prepare for all issues and we have extensive processes in place to respond quickly when experiencing disruptions in clinical services.
During this extended IT downtime, we have added extra staff and volunteers across the hospital and meet regularly with clinical leaders and physicians across the organization to continuously re-assess and provide updates on all units. I am so grateful to our staff, physicians, leaders and volunteers who have worked exceptionally hard and put in extra hours during this time to ensure safe, quality care to our community.
As I’ve been rounding on units, I’ve been so proud to see the level of teamwork and resilience shown by our staff. It reminds us that in an increasingly digital and connected world, while our electronic processes become seemingly more streamlined, they also make us more susceptible to these types of events. It’s more important than ever to be prepared and trained to provide safe and quality care under all circumstances.
What has been the impact to patients?
During this Code Grey, our Emergency Department has remained open and fully operational, surgeries continued, babies were delivered and almost all appointments proceeded. Some outpatient services were affected and those patients whose appointments were cancelled were notified and rescheduled.
No patient privacy has been compromised.
How long will it take to restore our systems?
On Tuesday, Oct. 1, we began bringing some of our key computer systems back online and this transition continues this week. Some of our systems that are less critical to operations may take a few weeks to be fully restored. This is a gradual process and we are taking extra precautions to ensure that our affected servers are fully cleansed and the data is restored.
As we continue to recover our systems, we will be reaching out to all of our staff and physicians to better understand and assess our response, what worked well and what areas we could improve upon. We are also planning a number of debrief and evaluation sessions to learn from this experience.
The safety of patients and clients is a top priority and I want to reassure our community that all patients at MGH continue to receive safe, high-quality care from our health care teams.
President and CEO
Michael Garron Hospital