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Ransomware attack at Michigan hospitals still causing problems 9 days later | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #ransomware

KALAMAZOO, MI — Patients are waiting for hospital systems to get back online after a disruptive cyberattack against Ascension hospitals that the company announced last week.

Patient Dan Newman was among the patients impacted, as he headed in for specialized blood work at an Ascension Borgess facility in Portage on Monday, May 13. He was surprised to see the waiting room empty. The lady at the counter told him his bloodwork could not happen as scheduled because the computer systems were down.

Newman and other patients still wait for services to return, now nine days after a ransomware attack crippled the nationwide Ascension hospital system on May 8. Patients can’t get prescriptions filled, access their patient portal or get some tests done, among other issues.

Ascension operates more than a dozen hospitals across Michigan, including in Kalamazoo, Saginaw, Novi and others.

“There was nothing they could do,” Newman said, since the disruption began last week on Wednesday, May 8. “They couldn’t even look at the computer to see what the specialist had ordered.”

All Ascension Michigan hospitals, physician offices and care sites across Michigan remain open, the company said on May 12, though some facilities have temporarily delayed diagnostic imaging and testing.

Despite challenges from the ransomware incident, patient safety is still the top priority, the company said.

Employees are using paper-based systems during the ongoing disruption, Ascension said, thanking patients for understanding during the “unexpected situation.”

The company also called it a “ransomware incident.”

Ascension Michigan doctor’s offices and care sites are operating with normal business hours, the company said, though patients may see longer wait times and delays.

Ascension said it will contact patients directly if appointments need to be rescheduled.

Ascension Rx retail pharmacies in Michigan cannot fill prescriptions.

“Please ask your doctor to send your prescription to a different pharmacy while we work to get our systems back online,” Ascension said in a news release. “If you can’t get your medicine from another pharmacy and you’re running out, call your local Ascension Rx retail pharmacy for help. Our pharmacies may be able to give you a short-term supply using your current prescription bottle.”

All Ascension Michigan emergency rooms are open and accepting walk-in patients, though some hospitals are implementing a diversion process for ambulance services for specific medical cases to ensure the best triage for patients, the hospital system said.

Related: Cyberattack has Michigan hospitals pausing some elective procedures, diverting emergency care

Parts of the hospital’s website are missing, Newman said after logging in Friday, May 17, as the website says the system remains down.

Appointment requests, messaging and prescription renewals are some of the disabled features on the site, Newman said. He saw others traveling to appointments only to be turned away and felt bad for them.

Newman said the employee told him labs could be performed if a patient has a document stamped “stat,” meaning it is more urgent in some way. He said a lot of people go through those offices daily, wondering about the number of patients left without services and answers to medical questions.

For his case, the specialized lab work was done as part of an investigation of earlier bloodwork, he said. He has an upcoming appointment to discuss the blood test results he has not been able to get.

The company did not immediately respond to questions sent by MLive on Friday, May 17.

The company said on May 15 it was working with forensic experts from Mandiant to conduct an investigation into the attack and how it occurred.

Ascension brought in additional cybersecurity experts from Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 and CYPFER to help supplement the rebuild and restoration efforts.

“We are focused on getting systems back up and running as safely and as quickly as possible,” an Ascension spokesperson said on May 15, indicating it will take time to return to normal operations.

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