Hospitals & Facilities

Ascension workers raise concerns amid cyberattack

Workers across Ascension hospitals say patient care has suffered due to the cyberattack.
article cover

Josh Brasted/Getty Images

· 3 min read

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.

Healthcare workers in several states are sounding the alarm about issues with patient care in the fallout of a major cyberattack at national hospital operator Ascension.

On May 8, Ascension, a Catholic nonprofit system based in St. Louis, suffered a ransomware attack that shut down its systems across the country.

While it is working with outside cybersecurity firm Mandiant as well as cybersecurity experts from Palo Alto Networks Unit 42 and CYPFER to restore systems, the clinicians on the ground are raising concerns that patient care is suffering. Ascension has 140 hospitals and thousands of affiliates around the US.

Justin Neisser, a travel nurse working at Ascension St. Vincent Hospital in Indiana, told Fox 59 that the hospital is in “pure chaos.” The news station reported that, according to Neisser, nurses cannot use the electronic medical records system due to safety concerns, and they are doing everything by hand—leading to backups and mistakes.

“There’s delays in X-ray, CTS, MRIs being read, delays in labs that are being sent down, delays in getting medications from the pharmacy, and even patients meals,” Neisser told the station.

At Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital in Michigan, a local union of healthcare workers posted a petition with over 175 signatures as of May 30 asking the hospital to address other safety concerns.

“We, the members of Local 40 at Ascension Providence Rochester Hospital, are deeply concerned about the current challenges faced by our healthcare professionals due to the cyber hack incident and subsequent lack of access to patients’ electronic medical records,” the union wrote.

Among their requests, the union asked for unit shift huddles to ensure regular communication around patient safety. They also asked for training sessions, weekly progress reports, lower nurse-to-patient ratios of 4:1, and a temporary reduction in elective surgeries and non-emergent admissions to alleviate strain on staff.

While the health system didn’t directly respond to questions about the workers’ concerns, the health system posted an updated statement on Wednesday afternoon that it is continuing to work with cybersecurity experts to restore its systems and that its hospital facilities are open, recommending patients to monitor regional updates in their area for the latest information in each state.

Restoring electronic health record access is among Ascension's top priorities, according to the statement.

As of May 30, many of its doctors offices and emergency rooms are up and running, but certain pharmacies and electronic prescription services are still shut down across Alabama, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Oklahoma, Texas, Wisconsin, and Washington, DC, according to the Ascension website.

Walker didn’t answer questions about a timeline for the restoration of all systems, nor give any updates about the ongoing investigation.

Do you work in healthcare or have information about the industry that we should know? Email Cassie at [email protected]. For confidential conversations, ask Cassie for her number on Signal.

Navigate the healthcare industry

Healthcare Brew covers pharmaceutical developments, health startups, the latest tech, and how it impacts hospitals and providers to keep administrators and providers informed.