Cancer patients' appointments disrupted as cyberattack fallout hits 1 week

·2 min read
Janet Martin missed six appointments this week as a result of the recent cyberattack. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Janet Martin missed six appointments this week as a result of the recent cyberattack. (Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada
Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

It's been seven days since Newfoundland and Labrador's health-care system was hit by a cyberattack, forcing appointments and services to be cancelled while authorities scramble to get things back online.

Janet Martin, 62, of Portugal Cove-St. Philip's was diagnosed with breast cancer in March. Her first chemotherapy treatment was on April 30. However, Martin has missed six appointments this week because of the attack's disruptions.

"That's just me, so how many other people have missed at least that many appointments and delays with treatments and whatnot? That's going to take a while for the health care to catch up," she told CBC News.

"Having cancer is like having a full-time job, because there is so many appointments."

Martin said with her team of doctors and the cancer treatment team, it has been a "well-oiled machine" so far with no interruptions to her treatments or tests — that is, until this week. Even during the pandemic there had been no delays before now, she said.

Martin said she has had her surgery, has finished her major chemotherapy treatments, is getting preventive treatment but is waiting for radiation therapy.

She worries about people who are still undergoing chemotherapy, and what the system delays mean for their treatment.

Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada
Patrick Butler/Radio-Canada

"There are people who are still getting their full chemo treatments, and need them on a regular basis to save their lives basically," she said.

"If putting treatment back a week makes a big difference, I don't know."

Martin said there were complications with her surgery, and she needed to meet with her surgeon this week. But now that the cyberattack has forced her appointments to be cancelled, she doesn't know what she's going to do.

"In order for me to move forward with my radiation, those complications need to be settled. So I've been seeing my surgeon every week," she said.

"This week I didn't see him. I was supposed to have a scan of my heart on Thursday as well; that didn't go ahead."

On Thursday, Health Minister John Haggie said the Meditech system — used to facilitate connectivity — is returning online in the Eastern Health and Central Health regions. Western Health said it plans to work on its network over the weekend.

On Friday health and government officials said they don't know when the disruptions from the attack will be resolved, but chemotherapy treatment has resumed across the province.

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