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25th May 2021

Stephen Donnelly hoping people don’t sue the HSE amid cyber attack

Clara Kelly

“You would hope that people would say ‘the HSE is the victim of a vicious and sophisticated attack here’.”

Minister for Health Stephen Donnelly has said he hopes that people don’t sue the HSE after a recent cyber attack.

The Health Minister said that while people are “free to take legal advice”, he would hope that they would choose not to sue the State over the possible data breaches.

He said that the HSE was a “victim” in the situation, adding that they take people’s data “very seriously”.

“People obviously are free to take legal advice on these types of things. You would hope people wouldn’t, you would hope that people would say ‘the HSE is the victim of a vicious and sophisticated attack here’,” he said on Ireland AM on Tuesday.

“The HSE takes people’s data very, very seriously.”

Donnelly added that money paid in lawsuits would deduct from money left to be used “to run healthcare systems”.

“Obviously, money that you have to pay out for data breaches is money that you’re not using to run healthcare systems,” he said.

“The briefings I have from the HSE is that there has been a lot of money and effort put into cybersecurity, the systems, and the information is very sensitive. What I can tell you is what this government has done is put a very large additional investment in.

“For example, in my first budget, I sanctioned an almost doubling of the IT staff in the HSE.”

Donnelly said that he doubled the staffing at the time not because the systems were bad, but because the “future is very exciting in healthcare when it comes to digital technologies”, citing new systems and platforms in the industry.

Earlier this month, the HSE announced it had temporarily shut down its IT system after it was targeted in a “significant ransomware attack”.

Described as possibly the most significant cybercrime attack on the Irish state by Minister of State for eGovernment Ossian Smyth, it has caused major disruptions to health services across the country.

The Department of Health confirmed that The National Cyber Security Centre, along with the Gardaí and the Defence Forces, is currently investigating the attacks.

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