Massive Cyber Attack Forces Hospitals To Divert Emergency Patients

Major hospitals in at least three U.S. states were forced on Monday to divert emergency patients after a sweeping ransomware attack on their parent company. 

Ardent Health Systems had to take drastic measures in Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico in an action that involved several hospitals in its system. Attackers penetrated programs and denied the medical provider access to computer files while demanding a ransom payment.

The malicious attack happened on Thanksgiving Day. The company announced that “in an abundance of caution, our facilities are rescheduling some non-emergent, elective procedures and diverting some emergency room patients to other area hospitals until systems are back online.”

The criminal attack locked computer systems, which took health records offline and even more critically blocked some clinical programs. 

Ardent insisted that quality patient care continues to be provided in all its facilities. Despite the setbacks, the FBI cautions institutions not to surrender to the attackers’ demands.

By Tuesday afternoon, over half of the system’s 25 emergency rooms were once again accepting at least some patients. Some fully removed their “divert” status, which sends those needing emergency treatment to other facilities.

The company reported it is currently unable to determine the extent of compromised health or financial information. Third-party security teams are busy working to restore functions for patients and medical care providers.

The Nashville-based Ardent said each of its hospitals and over 200 care sites is providing medical screenings and performing stabilizing care for those who arrive in their emergency facilities. Some patients, however, remain unable to access treatment.

The Associated Press reported that Amarillo, Texas, resident William Spell said his mother suffered from flu-like symptoms for several days. However, she was unable to get a doctor’s appointment due to the ransomware attack.

The 34-year-old said the family is “trying to figure out other options as to what to do next.”

Patient portal systems and the ability to conduct video doctor visits were hit by the outage. Some hospitals are recommending that those seeking treatment go to an urgent care location instead.

Spell said that was not an option for his mother because urgent care facilities “charge a lot of money just to walk through the door and be seen by a doctor.”

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