Ransomware attack on eHealth forces 31 cancer patients to re-schedule radiation treatment

A ransomware attack on the computer system that stores confidential medical data for Saskatchewan residents ended up affecting almost 40 patients getting cancer treatment in Saskatoon and Regina.

The attack on eHealth Saskatchewan began Jan. 6. Antivirus software immediately began sending alerts to staff.

When eHealth officials attempted to open files on affected servers they received a message that the files had been encrypted and would remain inaccessible until a payment was made.

The Saskatchewan Cancer Agency oversees the two cancer clinics in Saskatoon and Regina. It disconnected from the eHealth network after learning of the assault on the system.

While the move served to protect patient data, it also meant that staff could not immediately access provincial lab results, imaging pathology and pharmacy and medical information.

The clinics have contingency plans for when the electronic records are not accessible but it took time to co-ordinate retrieving the information.

As a result, 31 patients booked for radiation and another six with chemotherapy appointments had their treatment delayed by between 24 and 48 hours.

Each patient was given a personal explanation and apology for the delay and inconvenience, officials with Saskatchewan Cancer Agency said in an emailed statement.

The agency fully reconnected with the eHealth network on Jan. 14.