Irish health service IT systems shut down following cyberattack

14 May 2021

Image: © milkovasa/

Hospitals across the country are expected to experience delays as the HSE’s IT system suffers a ‘significant and serious’ attack.

The Irish Health Service Executive (HSE) has been hit by a cyberattack, forcing the organisation to shut down its IT systems as a precautionary measure.

A statement from the HSE released to the RTÉ radio show Morning Ireland today (14 May) explained that a “significant ransomware attack” had breached its IT systems. The HSE has shut down these systems to protect from the attack and allow for an investigation alongside security partners.

HSE CEO Paul Reid described the attack as “quite a significant one, quite a serious one”. He advised that: “We are at the very early stages of fully understanding the threat, the impact, and trying to contain.”

The HSE is working with all of its major IT security providers and the country’s national cybersecurity team on the issue. “That would be the major State supports: Garda, Defence Forces and third-party cyber support teams,” explained Reid.

Impact on services

The HSE has advised that all of today’s scheduled Covid-19 vaccinations will continue as planned.

Prof Fergal Malone, master of the Rotunda Hospital in Dublin, explained that life-saving equipment has not been affected by the attack. It is concentrated on the HSE’s IT system, which affects patient’s healthcare records.

Patients are advised to continue attending all health service and hospital appointments as usual unless otherwise advised. In the case of the Rotunda maternity hospital, outpatient visits and gynaecology clinics for today have been cancelled for all but those who are at 36 weeks’ pregnancy or later, or those who have urgent concerns.

The HSE has apologised for the disruption to its services.

Though labelled as a ransomware attack, RTÉ reports that no ransom demand has been made at this point.

Hospitals and clinics within the HSE use a common system for electronic records and registering patients. Malone has advised that staff at the Rotunda have a contingency plan to keep things running on a paper-based system, which will be slower and impact the number of appointments that can be facilitated.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.