ER diversions, canceled appointments: Ascension cyberattack fallout continues

Ascension hospitals across the country continued to deal with the fallout of a "cybersecurity event" May 9 involving its St. Louis-based parent system.

Ascension Saint Agnes in Baltimore stopped receiving new patients because of the IT outage, with the hospital declaring a "mini-disaster," the Baltimore Sun reported May 9.

Patients at Ascension Via Christi in Wichita, Kan., were being diverted to another local hospital, which was experiencing an increase in emergency room volume, KSN-TV in Wichita reported.

At Ascension Wisconsin hospitals, CT scans and mammograms were canceled, while patients were unable to pick up prescriptions, TMJ4 News in Milwaukee reported.

"It looks a lot like a ransomware attack and … in some cases, organizations are able to shut down their systems to stop the bad guys from infiltrating the systems before something bad happens," cybersecurity consultant Alex Holden told TMJ4. "But sometimes it's already too late."

Ascension said May 9 that it continued to respond to the "cybersecurity event" that interrupted its network the day before. The health system is working with cybersecurity firm Mandiant, a Google subsidiary, on the response. That company also advised Change Healthcare during its recent ransomware attack.

"Generally, if you see a third-party firm like this engaged, especially called out so early in the process, that would indicate some sort of high-level attack has occurred," cybersecurity advisor Tyler Chancey told News4JAX in Jacksonville, Fla. "It’s going to be something pretty major."

Ascension is the nation's second-largest nonprofit health system, with 140 hospitals and a footprint in 19 states.

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