A virus has attacked the computer system of one of Melbourne's largest hospital networks, causing chaos for staff and patients who may face delays as a result.
Staff at Melbourne Health - the network which runs the Royal Melbourne Hospital - are urgently trying to repair damage to its IT system after a virus infected Windows XP computers.
An email sent to staff today said the virus had hit Melbourne Health's pathology department, causing staff to manually process specimens such as blood, tissue and urine samples instead of computers aiding the registration, testing and entry of results.
While the Blood Bank is still operating for the hospital, the email said only urgent pathology specimens would be processed due to delays involved in "manual work-arounds" and that staff needed to send faxes to the pathology department if they required urgent results.
"Critically abnormal" haematology and biochemistry results are being telephoned to staff on wards including the intensive care unit and emergency department.
"Please note that there will be delays in the processing of Microbiology and Anatomical Pathology specimens," said the email sent this afternoon by Associate Professor Denise Heinjus, Executive Director Nursing Services and Allied Health.
The email said the hospital's food service was working with nurses to ensure that the right meals continue to be delivered to the right patients.
"IT is currently implementing a network-wide solution to this virus. This will take some time so staff must not attempt to fix the problem themselves," the email said.
It also warns staff whose computers are on and working not to switch them off. The email said staff should not log in to any password protected sites such as bank, Gmail or Facebook accounts. Staff whose computers are off are being warned not to switch them on.
The email said payroll had not been affected by the virus. The health network's website is not working and says it is "currently under maintenance".
On Monday night, a spokeswoman said although the virus had been disruptive for computer systems and PCs, staff had been able to minimise disruption to patients so far.
"Patient safety has always been our highest priority and has been maintained... Elective surgeries and outpatient appointments are continuing as normal," she said.
"We are working to fix this issue as quickly as possible. As soon as the virus has been removed, we will investigate how it came to infect Melbourne Health."
The spokeswoman would not comment on whether patients and ambulances should avoid the hospital's emergency department.
When asked if the virus would jeopardise the safety and privacy of patient's records, she made no comment. The spokeswoman also declined to say when the virus was first detected and how long it was likely to cause problems for.
Melbourne Health is one of Victoria's largest hospital networks and includes a rehabilitation centre and mental health service.