POLITICS

Some Alberta government services back online two days after fire at Shaw

07/13/2012 06:17 EDT | Updated 09/12/2012 05:12 EDT
EDMONTON - Some Alberta government services that were affected by a fire and explosion at a Calgary building are back online.

Service Alberta Minister Manmeet Bhullar said in a news release that the province's data recovery plan was working and crews are working 24-7 to restore systems on tape backups.

No one was hurt when a blast in a 13th-floor electrical room of Shaw Communications headquarters on Wednesday brought down Alberta Health Services computers, put three radio stations off the air, knocked out 911 service in Calgary and affected some banking services.

Alberta Health Services says its data centre is now fully operational and its hardware systems are being brought back online.

It had to cancel 110 scheduled elective surgeries and 298 ambulatory procedures in Calgary and area, but AHS says it has contacted all of the patients who were affected.

"All of these procedures are important and we appreciate the impact that rescheduling has on patients," AHS said on its website.

"Every procedure is necessary, and we will reschedule as quickly as possible."

AHS is asking Calgary patients who need to get non-urgent lab tests to wait to have their tests done later or rescheduled, adding all urgent, stat and time-sensitive lab tests will be prioritized.

Alberta Liberal health critic, Dr. David Swann chastised the Alberta government for its poor backup system.

“We have a $16 billion health system in Alberta,” Swann said in a news release. “Surely Alberta Health Services sees the necessity of having a backup in a separate building. This is continued poor planning for such critical infrastructure and we are seeing today that that puts patients at real and unnecessary risk.”

Swann said during the outage, the Alberta Netcare Portal was disrupted, and electronic patient pharmaceutical information was not available across the entire province.

Wildrose Service Alberta critic Rod Fox also criticized the province for its data handling.

Fox said it’s mind-boggling that analog tapes are used to back up the personal information and records of Albertans, such as medical records, land titles, hunting and fishing licences.

“This 1970s government needs to get into the 21st century, fast,” Fox said in a news release. “What’s the backup for the analog tapes, typewriters and rotary phones?”

Fox added that it is also unacceptable that backups were housed in the same facility in Ontario, offering no immediate protection in the event of an emergency.

“It just doesn’t make sense why it was set up like this,” Fox said.

Both the Liberals and the Wildrose pointed out that the auditor general recommended in 2009 and last fall that the Alberta government improve IT services, including having a backup plan that was tested should network services be disrupted.

Late Friday, the Alberta government said systems that support Alberta Works, including Income Support and Learner benefits payments and Assured Income for the Severely Handicapped (AISH) payments have been fully restored.

Court system services and processing of high school transcripts were back online on Friday.

The province says Albertans can still access registry services dealing with vital statistics, personal property and corporate registry, but people won't be able to buy a fish licence, so the province is letting them dip their poles for free this weekend.

Those who purchase a new vehicle and have a valid licence plate and registration in their name for the vehicle they are replacing, can use this on their new vehicle for 14 days within the date of purchase.

All City of Calgary services are also back online and working, according to the city.