ROCKINGHAM – As first reported by FirstHealth of the Carolinas on Tuesday, October 17, its computer network “experienced a downtime event” that day at 2:15 p.m. The immediate shutdown was voluntarily implemented (and has continued) as a precautionary measure due to a potential threat from a malware virus.
The FirstHealth information system team was quick to discover the malware presence and immediately implemented appropriate security protocols. The process included an immediate shutdown of the information system network, with staff initiating standard downtime procedures.
Further precautionary measures are being observed as FirstHealth remains on downtime, thereby allowing for sufficient testing and confirmation that all issues have been resolved before resuming normal operations.
The malware of note is a new form of the “WannaCry” ransomware virus, but an anti-virus patch that was developed specifically for this particular strain has been applied throughout the system.
Given that FirstHealth utilizes over 4,000 individual devices and more than 100 “physical locations” as connector points, the alleviation process has been tedious and time-consuming.
Public information officer Ellen Cooper and assistant public relations director Emily Sloan indicated that, thanks to the timely action by the information system security team, no patient information or operational databases were breached. Thus, no patient information has been compromised and it would appear that no apparent damage occurred.
Cooper and Sloan emphasize that this situation was “in no way related to our Epic system” and that access to Epic, and other FirstHealth systems, was blocked as a means of effectively preventing any damage.
Although, as would be expected, some delays and appointment cancellations have occurred as a result of this malware attack, no critical needs have been adversely affected.
FirstHealth is not alone in this regard; as reported by the Annals of Internal Medicine, almost 2000 attacks of this nature on hospitals were noted between 2009 and 2016.
FirstHealth of the Carolina offers sincere apologies for any inconveniences, and assures that recovery teams are “working tirelessly” to remedy the problem.
Please refer to FirstHealth’s website (https://www.firsthealth.org/lifestyle/news-events/2017/10/network-downtime) and social media pages for current updates.