Hospital computer system still down

Samaritan Medical Center, Watertown. Sydney Schaefer/Watertown Daily Times

WATERTOWN — After taking its computer system offline Saturday following a malware attack, Samaritan Medical Center is still investigating the incident and continuing to adjust nearly a week later.

Samaritan, with the assistance of computer forensic professionals, is currently working to restore the system, but in the meantime, telephone and fax lines are still working and patient communication is still active.

With protocols in place to handle scenarios such as this, according to a release from Samaritan, the hospital is able to continue providing care to its patients. In accordance with those protocols, and in an abundance of caution, Samaritan has rescheduled some non-urgent patient procedures and appointments due to the outage.

“Our function here at Samaritan is to ensure the safety and quality of our patients and we do drill for this, we do have 3 to 4 hours of downtime very frequently during system updates so this isn’t very uncommon for us to use these downtime paperwork procedures and the care hasn’t really changed here,” said Heather Clement, patient safety officer, in a video interview from Samaritan. “We still are giving the same care and we’re still at the bedsides, still doing what we need to do for our patients here.”

She continued by explaining that Samaritan is currently using paper for documentation, which is a bit of a lengthy process, but patient care hasn’t really changed, just the way they are getting information into their documentation for patients. Instead of electronic documentation, they are currently using packets of documents and writing information in them rather than entering it into the systems like they would normally.

While a full investigation into the potential security incident is ongoing, there is currently no indication that any patient or employee information was involved.

There are no issues paying people, according to Leslie DiStefano, director of communication and public relations at Samaritan. Payroll is still up and running and times are just being recorded differently for the time being.

“Our staff has really been excellent throughout all of this, they’re calm, they’re very flexible, they understand these downtime procedures because we do drill this from time to time,” said Ms. Clement. “In many ways we’re very prepared for these downtime procedures because we do this periodically for system updates.”

Because the investigation into the origins of the malware and the extent of its impact is still ongoing, it is unclear how long the systems will be down at Samaritan.

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