TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — Less than a week after a ransomware attack shut down three hospitals in the Tuscaloosa area, officials with DCH Health Systems are working to get the system back to normal.
The system were forced to pay off the hackers to gain access to their computer systems, but the hospitals remain on diversion. Although DCH officials were able to unlock their computer systems, there is still work to be done to fully bring the system totally back online. Officials don’t know when that will happen.
“It’s a shame and it’s a bad thing and when you do it to a hospital, it can be downright dangerous,” DCH spokesperson Brad Fisher said.
Fisher said he was upset after cyber hackers were able to shut down the computer systems by encrypting digital files. However, for the good of the patients who need care, DCH decided to pay the hackers an undisclosed amount of money to get a key code to unlock the hospital’s computer system.
“I don’t know how much we had to pay because it was done by third party,” Fisher said. “And if I knew, I would not be able to tell you.”
DCH officials said employee and patient data was safe.
“No data was stolen. No employee or patient data was stolen,” Fisher said. “They just basically found a way to put the computer systems out of business until you pay them money and they give you the code.”
Despite now having access to its online records, patients are still being transported by ambulance to Birmingham hospitals.
“We remain on diversion for all but the most critical patients brought to us by ambulance,” Fisher said. “We are still seeing patients that come to us to our emergency department by private vehicle. We are not closed to new patients.”
Since the cyber attack, the city of Tuscaloosa has been lending a helping hand using fire department to help transport patients who cannot be admitted to DCH.
“I am very proud of our fire department,” city councilman Kip Tyner said. “Northstar Ambulance is our only ambulance service to operate in the City of Tuscaloosa, so we’ve given all the resources we can and will continue to do until this hopefully comes to an end soon.”
All three hospitals in the DCH Health Systems have 850 beds and admitted more than 32,000 patients in 2018.