Samaritan shuts down computer system after ‘potential security incident’

Updated: Jul. 27, 2020 at 4:32 PM EDT
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WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - Doctors and nurses are using pen and paper at Samaritan Medical Center, after the hospital shut down its computer system over the weekend.

In a statement, the hospital said they took the computer system offline Saturday after “identifying a potential security incident.” The hospital has notified the F.B.I. and Homeland Security.

The hospital did not disclose further details about the nature of the incident, but hospitals around the world have been the target of malware in recent years, in which the facility is threatened with the loss of its records if it doesn’t pay a ransom.

A Samaritan official said the hospital is still seeing and caring for patients and that the impact on the hospital has been minimal, though some appointments have been postponed out of “an abundance of caution.”

“Samaritan is rescheduling some non-urgent patient procedures and appointments previously set, due to the outage,” according to the statement.

No patient or resident at Samaritan’s nursing homes has been transferred because of the computer problem, the Samaritan official said.

The hospital’s telephone and fax lines are still operating. Computers at Samaritan Summit Village and Samaritan Keep Home were also shut down, as were computers at clinics Samaritan runs.

There is no indication any patient or employee information was disclosed, according to the statement.

Hospital employees get paid Wednesday - since that payroll was submitted last week before the incident, a Samaritan official said pay day will be normal, as will next week’s pay day for nursing facility employees.

Modern hospitals are highly computerized; computers are the repositories of patient records, they keep track of drug doses, they issue patient bills. That - and the fact that so many people have access to a hospital’s computer system - makes hospitals particularly rich targets for hackers.

The Samaritan official said hospital staff has practiced for just such an emergency, and had a plan in place.

Samaritan has brought in a private company to help assess the damage and investigate what happened.

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