Ransomware Attack Results in Limited Closing of Emergency Rooms at Two Hospitals

Computer systems used by East Ohio Regional Hospital (EORH) in Martins Ferry, OH, and Ohio Valley Medical Center (OVMC) in Wheeling, WV, were taken down over the weekend of 24/25 November as a consequence of a ransomware attack.

The ransomware began encrypting files on the evening of Friday, November 23. Though the attackers succeeded in gaining access to some systems by infiltrating the first layer of safety, the following layer was not breached, and the protected health information of its patients was not undermined. Even so, the attack led to interruption to certain medical facilities at both hospitals.

Patients walking into the emergency room might still be processed and cured, but the hospitals were unable to accept patients from emergency groups. During the attack, the hospitals switched to paper charts to make sure data safety and e-squad patients were diverted to other hospitals.

Several hospital systems were taken offline to safeguard the integrity of information and IT teams have been working around the clock to get rid of the ransomware, restore files, and bring systems back online. The hospitals picked not to pay the ransom demand and instead reestablished affected files from standbys after rebuilding affected systems.

At first it was hoped that systems would be reestablished by Sunday evening; nevertheless, e-squad patients were still being diverted to other hospitals on Monday evening while the IT staff reestablished affected systems. “We’ve made great development, but we are not there yet,” clarified Daniel Dunmyer, CEO of OVMC, “It’s taken hours for substantial improvement, but it will take days for completion.”

Until essential systems are reestablished, the emergency rooms will remain on yellow diversion and remain partly closed. On yellow diversion, “the EMS can call into the ER and we can let them know if it’s a case we can take,” explained Dunmyer. On Tuesday, the software used to read radiology and CT images and make that information available to ER staff was still being reconstructed. Only when that system is reestablished will EORH/OVMC go off diversion in the ERs.