'Hospitals in chaos.' Ascension hospitals still dealing with problems from cyberattack

Posted at 6:31 AM, May 17, 2024

Correction: An earlier version of this web story misidentified Erica's place of work. It has since been corrected.

A major cyberattack is still affecting health care at Ascension, which has six hospitals in metro Detroit.

The ransomware attack that began on Wednesday, May 8, has medical providers reverting to pen and paper, leading to longer wait times at the ER and much more.

According to Ascension, they are focused on restoring systems safely and said they are making progress, but it "will take time to return to normal operations."

The hospitals are in downtime procecures, which includes manual processes for moving to paper records and processing everything by hand.

Some nurses and patients have described "hospitals in chaos" at Ascension facilities across the country.

"This is truly a crisis situation and it needs to be treated as such," said Erica, an advocate for nurses.

The cyberattack has affected 140 hospitals and dozens of senior living facilities in 19 states, affecting everything from ordering tests to reading labs and scans.

With access to medical records blocked, staffers are being forced to write notes on paper, resulting in hours-long delays.

"She's charting it, she's writing it by hand. So it was a long wait," Christopher Namowicz, whose child was in the hospital.

This is just the latest cyberattack in the healthcare industry. Earlier this year, an attack on Change Healthcare disrupted systems nationwide. The company ended up paying a $22 million ransom.

As investigators try to determine if hackers stole any Ascension patient data, nurses are on edge.

"They cannot scan the medication so you cannot scan the patient's arm band or the barcode on the medication to match to see if that is even a correct order or dose," Erica said. "They're worried about their own nursing license because all of the safety checks that we have in place have basically been eliminated."