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AHS launching review into network outage that led to postponed surgeries and lab work

Click to play video: 'Alberta Health Services network outage leads to postponed surgeries, lab work'
Alberta Health Services network outage leads to postponed surgeries, lab work
An Alberta Health Services network outage caused some non-urgent, elective surgeries and lab work to be postponed Monday, forcing staff at hospitals across Alberta to go back to using paper charts, whiteboards and phone calls to communicate. Sarah Komadina reports – Jan 23, 2023

A third-party review will be launched after a provincewide network outage caused non-urgent, elective surgeries and some lab work to be postponed in Alberta Health Services facilities Monday.

The network problems were beginning to resolve at around 2 p.m., according to AHS.

“The technical issue causing the provincial AHS network outage has been resolved and teams are working quickly to restore all clinical systems, which will take a few hours,” AHS said in a tweet.

Service was first restored in critical patient care areas, such as emergency departments.

AHS said it is reviewing the cause of the outage so it can work to make sure it doesn’t happen again. In an update Monday night, the health-care provider said it will ask a third party to review the cause of the problem.

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“The third-party review, which will begin shortly, will help us determine the root cause of the network outage and identify any improvements that will prevent such outages happening in the future,” spokesperson Kerry Williamson said.

There is no indication that the outage was caused by hacking or any form of cyber-attack, AHS said.

“It is imperative that we understand what happened today so that it does not happen again,” said Dr. John Cowell, AHS Official Administrator.

“I would like to thank Albertans for their patience, as well as the teams involved in getting our systems back up and running.”

On Monday morning, some elective, non-urgent surgeries were postponed “as a precaution.” AHS said affected patients would be contacted to rebook their procedures.

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Lab services were also impacted and reduced at some sites, with urgent results being communicated by fax or telephone instead of over AHS’ internal communications system.

AHS said routine laboratory appointments must be rescheduled, as hospitals moved to focusing on only critical and stat laboratory requests.

Until the early afternoon, 811 Health Link was only available “in a limited capacity” with longer wait times. The service was functioning normally by 1:30 p.m.

Click to play video: 'Alberta Health Services slowly bringing services back online after network outage'
Alberta Health Services slowly bringing services back online after network outage

Emergency Medical Services dispatch is functioning with back-up procedures and calls to 911 were not affected, AHS said. Those with an emergency were asked to call 911.

“Our teams are currently using downtime procedures, which are immediately put in place if an electronic system isn’t available,” AHS said in a statement. “This ensures we can continue to provide patient care.”

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According to AHS, “all clinical systems and Connect Care applications (were) down.”

“We’ve been tracking (the outage) for a couple of hours now,” Dr. John Cowell, AHS’ official administrator, said at an unrelated news conference Monday morning.

“The clinical support — Connect Care and NetCare — is down and of course, everybody knows that’s not a good thing.”

Cowell said there was no higher priority than getting clinical systems back up and running.

“We are working to restore service and will provide updates as soon as possible,” said AHS.

Read more: 4 Alberta mayors call for inquiry into EMS system outage

Read next: Medicago to cease operations in Quebec, scuttling COVID-19 vaccine production plans

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— With files from Karen Bartko, Global News

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