By James Matthews
Work is still underway to correct the cybersecurity issues that caused a Code Grey at Haliburton Highlands Health Services facilities in February.
HHHS declared an information technology Code Grey in Feb. 5 because of a third-party incident outside the HHHS. The incident hindered staff’s access to the integrated information technology system shared with Ross Memorial Hospital (RMH).
The affected systems were taken offline, and HHHS’ IT team and RMH are working to bring all systems back online.
“Significant progress has been made thanks to this hard work and the support of regional partners as well as third-party cybersecurity experts,” Carolyn Plummer, the president and CEO of HHHS, said in her March report to board members.
“Cyber defence infrastructure has also been updated to reduce the risk of re-occurrence of any similar incidents.
“Given the complexity of the situation and its impacts, HHHS continues to anticipate that it may be a number of weeks before operations return to normal.”
Health care facilities under the umbrella of HHHS have been gearing up for Accreditation 2023. The IT Code Grey and its fallout prevent some staff from accessing emails. That impacted response to a staff Work Life Pulse Survey launched in late January.
“With the challenges some staff experienced accessing their emails during the early part of the IT Code Grey, the deadline has been extended to the end of April and staff are reminded to complete the survey as soon as they are able,” Plummer said.
HHHS received a short-term reprieve from the financial pressures faced by Ontario health care providers.
Staffing pressures and vacancies are expected to continue. As are rising operational costs for utilities, fuel, raw food, maintenance, transportation, and medical supplies.
HHHS’ negative run rate against the budget is running at a similar pace. But outstanding receivables from the Ministry of Health were settled in December and January, which has slightly alleviated some cash flow pressure in the short term.
Plummer said HHHS continues to monitor our payment terms to maximize the use of cash.
“HHHS has communicated its ongoing deficit position and provided a nursing agency pressure funding request to Ontario Health East, which resulted in receiving an additional $350,000 in funding for these pressures,” she said.
“In total, HHHS has received $631,000 in one-time operating pressure funding, which is quite similar in total dollars to the prior year, as well as $106,200 in new COVID-19 prevention and containment funding.”
Preparations are underway for the audit process as the fiscal year is drawing to a close at the end of March.
The staffing situation at HHHS, like other hospitals and health care organizations in Ontario, remains a significant challenge, impacting both day-to-day operations and longer-term planning.
The COVID-19 virus continues to circulate, and at the time of this report HHHS is experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak in the In-Patient Department of the Haliburton Hospital. There are currently five confirmed patient cases and two staff cases associated with the outbreak.
All COVID-positive patients and those who may have been exposed to COVID have been isolated. The department is now closed to any further admissions, and visitors are restricted to those receiving end-of-life care.
Volunteers continue to be restricted from entering the In-patient Department.
HHHS will continue to maintain important IPAC measures that have been in place, including full Personal Protective Equipment and mandatory masking in all patient care areas, mandatory vaccination, and active screening for symptoms of COVID-19.
Enhanced cleaning will now also be conducted in the In-patient Department, and staff will continue to monitor themselves for symptoms. Services in the Haliburton Emergency Department remain unaffected by this outbreak, and community members in need of emergency care should not hesitate to seek assistance.
“As the cold and flu season draws to a close, it will be important for staff and community members to be aware that the virus remains a threat, and to be thoughtful about precautions,” Plummer said.