Ascension's cyberattack impact: Long wait times, paper-only systems, lot of frustrations

'It was absolutely chaos,' one patient said
Ascension Providence
Posted at 5:46 PM, May 10, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-12 19:48:14-04

SOUTHFIELD, Mich. (WXYZ) — The largest Catholic hospital chain in the country is on its third day of a large-scale cyberattack and patients are starting to take notice of their decreasing quality of care.

We wanted to hear out patients' frustrations and concerns.

According to the health system, some nonemergent elective procedures, tests and appointments have been temporarily paused. However, those inside hospital walls say the problem is more widespread than initially reported.

“They’re downplaying it a lot," Ascension Providence Hospital emergency room patient Zackery Lopez said.

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Zackery Lopez was impacted by the cyberattack with Ascension while in the emergency room at Ascension Providence Hospital in Southfield.

Lopez is a colon cancer survivor who was diagnosed six months ago. He's been in remission for a month, so when he started vomiting blood Tuesday, he feared the worst.

He checked into Ascension Providence Tuesday afternoon, just hours before the Wednesday cyberattack. He said he saw doctors start unplugging machines and switching over to paper-only charts.

“It was like 1980. Everyone’s running to get pieces of paper, charts, clipboards. They have no computers whatsoever," Lopez said. "It was chaos. It was absolutely chaos.”

Hear more from Lopez in the video below:

Ascension patient describes experience as health system had massive cyber attack

Lopez says he was seen by a doctor when he checked in and then never again. He checked himself out two days later on Thursday while still in pain and without answers.

“In a hospital system, this kind of thing should never happen," he said.

When 7 News Detroit first brought you this story Wednesday, Ascension called the attack a “disruption.” Now, the system admits operations and appointments have been delayed, MyChart is inactive and some emergency vehicles are temporarily being diverted, including at Ascension Macomb-Oakland Hospital Friday.

Watch our story from Thursday below with a cybersecurity expert and other patients:

Ascension Hospital is still in the throes of a massive nationwide cyber-attack

"Hospitals have been hit with ransomware repeatedly over the last several years and when you see a ransomware incident typically happen, you want to shut those computers off from the rest of the network, so that the ransomware infection can't spread," cybersecurity expert Thomas Holt said.

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Thomas Holt, a cybersecurity expert, talks about the cyberattack at Ascension hospitals nationwide. (May 10, 2024)

Holt theorizes that due to the system moving over to paper and the scope of the events, ransomeware may be to blame. He says ransom negotiations could be happening as we speak.

"Most of the time, the magnitude of an attack like this is going to come from a foreign state," Holt added.

VIDEO: Doctor describes Ascension cyberattack as a "migraine"

'Migraine': How Ascension health cyberattack caused headache for doctors

Meanwhile, Courtney Lockhart, whose mother has been at Ascension Providence for days now with a broken feeding tube, says things are finally getting better on Friday.

“They were able to get it under control yesterday, Thursday, so it’s going a lot better," she said. "They’ve been apologizing. They’ve been saying the system breach is having an effect on them, but they’re doing the best they can and they’re moving a lot quicker than they were.”

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Courtney Lockhart talks about the cyberattack at Ascension health. (May 10, 2024)

Patients and health care workers hope the situation is resolved soon. However, Holt believes it could still be weeks until we know the actual cause of the attack and how many people were truly impacted.

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