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At AIIMS, system still down, patients’ lives thrown out of gear

On Monday, while patients waited for their turn at various facilities for extended hours, doctors and employees executed work manually, where they wrote all reports and prepared bills with pen and paper.

Monday was the sixth day at the country’s premier institute when the e-hospital services did not work.

Unending queues at the new Rajkumari Amrita Kaur (RAK) OPD, as well as for lab services, diagnostic centres and billing counters have become a norm at the All India Institute of Medical Science (AIIMS), Delhi, since last Wednesday due to a ransomware attack.

On Monday, while patients waited for their turn at various facilities for extended hours, doctors and employees executed work manually, where they wrote all reports and prepared bills with pen and paper.

One such patient was Sumedha Verma, who had to stand in the queue for hours before she got an appointment with a resident doctor deployed at the ENT clinic at the RAK OPD.

A Ghaziabad resident, Sumedha (30) has been suffering from severe headaches and dizziness for the past week. “I have been coming to AIIMS for three days now, but I could not get an appointment. On Monday, I stood in the OPD queue at 7 am and got the appointment for noon,” said Sumedha.

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Monday was the sixth day at the country’s premier institute when the e-hospital services did not work, and the patient data system and day-to-day activities, including OPD registrations and blood sample reports, remained affected. Last Wednesday, a ransomware attack affected the hospital server. Officers of the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team, Delhi Police, Intelligence Bureau and the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) are probing the incident and they are yet to find the accused involved in the hack. Delhi Police spokesperson Suman Nalwa said, “No ransom demand has been brought to notice by AIIMS authorities…”

The AIIMS e-server contains data of around 4 crore patients, including former Prime Ministers, cabinet ministers and other political leaders. With the cyber attack, the data is now at risk of being lost or in the wrong hands. “The data restoration and server cleaning is in progress and is taking some time due to the volume of data and a large number of servers…” said AIIMS in a statement.

Meanwhile, patients praised doctors and the staff who were making reports manually. “The resident doctors have been rushing from patient to patient to clear the slot of those who were given appointments and were working overtime because of which I finally got the consultation,” said Sumedha.

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With the e-server being down for the last five days, computerised registration counters also remained empty.

Similar queues were observed at the lab testing facility where patients queued up to get blood and sample reports which were handwritten by doctors and staff. Doctors were also unable to generate Unique Health Identification and Aadhaar (UHID) for patients.

Rajan Singh, a patient from Gaya who is undergoing treatment for gastro issues, said it took five hours for him to get the same. “The doctor and staff employed were making the reports manually due to which everything got delayed. I was told that the server of the institute is not working,” he said.

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Meanwhile, doctors and staff said they were overworked due to a lack of internet service, which has been halted due to the e-server hack. “This had to happen as there are no cyber safety norms or data safety norms here in the institute, and the digitisation process is being done when we can not protect the e-server. All patient data is at a major risk,” said a doctor.

According to sources, the director of the institute, Dr M Srinivas, is in Rishikesh for an event. When The Indian Express reached out seeking a comment on the e-server hack, he was unavailable.

First published on: 29-11-2022 at 05:20 IST
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