By Sandra G. León
One of San Diego’s largest health care providers was brought to its knees by computer hackers that have disrupted emergency rooms, patient care, and even employee work schedules.
Scripps Health system was hit on May 1st by malware presumably unknowingly downloaded by someone within their computer network, most likely through an infected email, and shut down the hospital systems computer networks.
Since then, most Scripps Health hospitals and urgent care centers remain open for continued and routine services, but their emergency rooms have stopped taking in patients, with Sharp HealthCare and UC San Diego Health reporting increased traffic to their emergency rooms.
Last week, Scripps Health President and CEO Chris Van Gorder released a memo to employees and doctors calling the situation “a cyber security incident with malware placed on our information system.”
“My philosophy and Scripps’ philosophy is to be as open and transparent as possible. I will continue to do that but I want you to know this is a different kind of situation which limits what and when I can say things,” Van Gorder wrote. “We need to let our investigation proceed and work with our consultants and outside governmental agencies, and when I can share, I will.”
Van Gorder assured hsi tram that only their information systems were breached, but that he didnt “believe individual data incidents affecting employees, physicians or patients are related to our current incident.”
Several employees have posted on personal social media accounts and spoken to reporters claiming that some issues with prescriptions, work schedules, and appointments disrupted normal operations at several facilities.
“For our part we are in this battle, but our patients come first. Because of you, our patients are being
cared for safely. If you ever have concerns about patient safety, please talk to your managers, physician
leaders and location administration right away so we can address immediately,” Van Gorder added.
There is no timeline for when Scripps may regain full functionality of their systems after the attack.
Neither Scripps nor law enforcement officials would comment on the details of the cyber attack or whether, like the ransomware attack that shut down the Colonial Pipeline on the East Coast, a specific ransom was demanded.
The Colonial Pipeline operators this week paid a reported $5 million random for the key to unlock their hacked system.