POTSDAM — St. Lawrence Health System diverted ambulances and moved to offline documentation methods at three area hospitals after a cyberattack disabled some computer systems early Tuesday morning. The three hospitals hit include Canton-Potsdam Hospital, Gouverneur Hospital and Massena Hospital.
Director of Corporate Communications for the St. Lawrence Health System Tracy Jarvis confirmed Tuesday evening that ransomware was detected on the network’s computers several hours after the cyberattack. As a result, the health system’s information systems department disconnected computer systems in an attempt to stem the computer virus from spreading.
A release from Ms. Jarvis indicated patients are continuing to be cared for safely, and the hospital doesn’t believe any patient or employee data was compromised during the attack.
“The security measures implemented immediately made it possible to contain the virus and protect our patients and staff,” St. Lawrence Health System’s Chief Information Officer Lyndon Allen said in the release Tuesday evening.
Hospital authorities notified and have been working with the FBI and U.S. Department of Homeland Security to exchange information on the virus, which is believed to be a previously unknown version of Ryuk ransomware.
During the day Tuesday, emergency services were diverted to avoid bringing patients to some of the St. Lawrence Health Systems hospitals as the facilities mitigated the ongoing ransomware attack.
At about 4:30 a.m., St. Lawrence County Emergency Services Director Matthew Denner said his department was instructed by St. Lawrence Health System to divert ambulances away from Canton-Potsdam Hospital. According to Mr. Denner, that order was lifted at about 9:30 a.m., but at the same time, his department was instructed to begin diverting ambulances from Gouverneur Hospital. That diversion remained in effect as of Tuesday afternoon.
“I’ve been in touch with the (Gouverneur Hospital) EMS manager since early this (Tuesday) morning,” Gouverneur Rescue Director Mark A. Deavers said. “They notified my crew overnight that there was some form of a failure, and when I got the messages from them, I began communicating with the nurse manager and that communication has been ongoing with updates throughout the day.”
As of Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Deavers said the rescue squad has had to make three trips to Samaritan Medical Center in Watertown.
The state Department of Health was the first official entity to confirm the outage at the hospitals was due to a cyberattack.
“DOH has been in communication with St. Lawrence Hospital System which operates Canton-Potsdam Hospital and Gouverneur Hospital about a cyberattack,” a statement from the DOH released Tuesday afternoon noted in part. “DOH will continue to provide support to the St. Lawrence Hospital System and our partners in government in response to this cyberattack.”
St. Lawrence Health System advised via a separate release Tuesday that its COVID-19 testing site currently located on Lawrence Avenue in Potsdam would not be moving Thursday as was initially planned. It wasn’t clear if the decision was made in response to the cyberattack.