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Tech glitch delays cancer treatments

Faulty router at Sunnybrook forced hospital to make up over 200 appointments
By Tristan Carter

May 18, 2012

Neighbourhoods: Bridle Path

Originally published in our Bayview Mills print edition(s).

Computer problems at Sunnybrook Hospital delayed treatment for more than 200 cancer patients in mid-April.

According to Craig Duhamel, the hospital’s vice-president of communications, a network outage occurred at 11 a.m. on April 17, which affected computers at both the hospital’s Bayview Avenue and Wellesley Street sites.

“There was a router that failed and it caused some of our systems to go down that are important in planning and scheduling and mixing treatments for patients,” he said. “One of the most affected areas was our cancer centre that relies heavily on getting test results through our patient records, which they weren’t able to access.”

Hospital workers were able to use their computers during the outage but weren’t able to access the server that contains patient information, said Duhamel. He added the problem was solved by 5 p.m., but by that time about 20 chemotherapy patients and about 200 patients awaiting radiation therapy had missed their appointments.

Duhamel said Sunnybrook did what it could to make up for the inconvenience.

“We cancelled their appointments so we had to pay for their parking obviously,” he said. “I would say the patients were understanding of what happened.

“I think that because we were able to resolve it so quickly, the impact on patients was quite minimal.”

Sunnybrook brought in additional staff during the following days to help deal with the backlog of patients.

“They had to rebook a number of patients,” Duhamel said. “Essentially what they did from last Tuesday is double book them through the weekend and through this week we were able to catch up.”

The hospital is looking into the technical issue to ensure the same problem is not repeated. With 10,000 new patients each year, Sunnybrook has the second-largest cancer program in the country and the sixth-largest in North America.

“We’re working with our outside vendors to ensure that the systems are all going to be checked regularly and to try to avoid any further router issues,” Duhamel said. “We’ve got our preventative maintenance program in place, so I’m fairly confident that we’ll avoid these things in the future.”

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