Ascension cyberattack should not thwart financial rebound: Fitch

Ascension's financial turnaround should not be impeded to any great degree by the ransomware attack that the St. Louis-based system has suffered, Fitch Ratings said in a May 15 report. 

The 140-hospital system's strong liquidity and leverage position provides a substantial rating cushion for what Fitch assumes to be one-off events — such as the current cyberattack — with a generally limited operational disruption and related financial losses. 

Fitch also said Ascension's year to date 2024 results show that its operations continue to improve.

However, the ransomware attack highlights a substantial increase in the number, severity and frequency of cyber assaults on the healthcare sector, particularly over the last few months.

Cyberattacks have not resulted in any credit rating downgrades so far, but they underscore the increasing skills of hackers who could cause more harmful attacks in the future, according to Fitch. These attacks may in time disrupt healthcare delivery, making it critical to monitor them closely.

Fitch revised Ascension's outlook to negative in September amid operational and challenges and labor availability issues, which are widespread across the healthcare sector. Ascension's bonds are rated at "AA," but its debt levels are favorable compared to other large health systems.

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