Toronto hospital network issues ‘code grey’ as digital systems go down

Click to play video: 'UHN outage affects patients’ appointments, hospital operations'
UHN outage affects patients’ appointments, hospital operations
WATCH: An outage to the University Health Network's digital system led to patient appointments being cancelled and hospital operations being affected. Ahmar Khan reports – Jan 9, 2023

TORONTO — A major Toronto hospital network said its digital systems went down on Monday and it was working to investigate what was causing the outage.

The University Health Network issued a “code grey” — a hospital code for system failure — but released few other details about what happened.

“UHN is experiencing outages in our digital systems across our networks,” said spokeswoman Gillian Howard.

Clinical areas are using “downtime procedures” at the moment, she said.

Later Monday evening, the UHN issued a series of tweets on behalf of Howard, noting there may be “challenges reaching some departments across the network” as it restores service.

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The tweets also warned that patients arriving at its hospitals on Tuesday should expect delays.

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“As usual, the safety of our patients is our highest priority. We will update on the situation as things progress,” the tweets concluded.

The UHN outage comes after the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto issued a “code grey” last month when a ransomware attack affected its operations.

Last week, the children’s hospital said 80 per cent of its priority systems had been restored and it did not pay any ransom.

LockBit, a ransomware group the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation has called one of the world’s most active and destructive, apologized for the hack purportedly by one of its partners.

It offered the use of a decryptor, but SickKids said it did not use it, with its technology team restoring its systems.

Meanwhile, Scouts Canada was recently subject to a cyberattack of its “MyScouts” database that helps run programs across the country. The system remains down, although Scouts Canada said only a small number of users had been directly affected.

While it’s unclear what caused the most recent UHN hospital outage, a research firm said data indicates cyberattacks in Canada increased by 20 per cent last year.

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Check Point Research said health care, finance and government industries were the hardest hit in 2022.

Ontario’s Cybersecurity Expert Panel concluded in a September report that the broader public services sector needed more work to achieve “cyber maturity.”

The panel said “cyber-related initiatives are happening in parallel across different sectors without a centrally co-ordinated strategy or model.”

It suggested the province “reinforce existing governance structures to enable effective cybersecurity risk management” across the broader public services sector.

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