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System outages reported at some public hospitals and health facilities in Singapore

Over the past six weeks, system outages have been reported at some public hospitals and health centers of the National Health Group and the National University Health System, leading to appointment delays and longer wait times. .

The first reported outage occurred on August 27; 26 IT applications, including EMR, appointment, pharmacy, and laboratory systems, were down across 17 government-run health facilities.

A second interruption, of longer duration, occurred on September 5 and affected eight public health institutions and two polyclinic groups.

Three weeks later, on September 29, another system failure was reported at some NHG and NUHS facilities, including Woodlands Polyclinic and Yishun Polyclinic, according to a news report from CNA.

BECAUSE IT IS IMPORTANT

The NHG Central Cluster and NUHS Western Cluster serve a combined population of around two million. The system outages had caused “significant impacts on operations”, said Dr Janil Puthucheary, Minister of State for Health, in response to a recent parliamentary inquiry.

“Patients experienced longer wait times, up to an hour, at the affected institutions. Some had rescheduled their outpatient appointments. There were delays in delivering medications to patients,” he explained.

“Fortunately, there was no engagement with urgent care services at all institutions during IT outages. No one was turned away from emergency departments, denied urgent care,” he added.

THE GREATEST CONTEXT

The two previous incidents were attributed to bugs found in hardware devices in data centers.

According to Dr. Puthucheary, in the days before the first outage, two nodes in the data center’s firewall zones failed due to firmware bugs. The manufacturer, CISCO, was then contacted to identify the bugs and patch the devices.

However, the two nodes failed again a week later, causing the second IT outage. An evaluation found that the failure was different from the first event.

In any event, NHG and NUHS had activated business continuity measures and downtime procedures, and in some cases resorted to manual documentation, following system failures.

“Fixes for some of the issues have been made available and implemented. For the rest, we continue to work with the manufacturer”, said the high minister of State.

“In the meantime, we have increased capacity in the network to get more operational buffer to increase resiliency,” he added.

Furthermore, Dr. Puthucheary did not attribute the first two system outages to a lack of manpower.

He also assured parliament that there were no indications of security compromises in the affected systems.

The Integrated Health Information System (iHIS), which implements, maintains and manages the IT systems of all public health care facilities and institutions in Singapore, has not yet provided details on the third and recent system outage, which was resolved within the day.

“System services have been restored as of 1 p.m. We are monitoring the situation to help our healthcare partners care for their patients,” the health technology agency said in a Facebook post on September 29. .

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