Employees describe chaotic scene at UHS hospitals amid IT incident

Universal Health Services, a King of Prussia, Pa.-based health system with 26 hospitals and hundreds of other clinical facilities across the U.S. and United Kingdom, was hit by a cyberattack that shut down computers and some phone systems.

The attack began on Sept. 27, and one nurse told CNBC the computers slowly stopped working. The health system issued a statement on Sept. 28 acknowledging an “IT security issue” and noted its facilities turned to downtime protocols. Employees are now stepping forward to describe the scene inside facilities.

A Washington-based clinician working in a UHS facility said medical staff couldn’t easily see lab results, imaging scans and medication lists to make treatment decisions, according to a CBS News report. The facility also reverted to hand-delivering lab orders and phone issues made it challenging for care team communication. “These things are life or death,” the clinician said.

A nurse told CNBC that in addition to turning to paper records, clinicians are hand-labeling medications. The Wall Street Journal reported some ambulances have been re-routed and elective surgeries canceled.

One of the acute care hospitals in Texas reported emergency room wait times increased from 45 minutes to six hours after the attack, and mid-day on Sept. 29 the facility did not have access to patient files or imaging records. The hospital’s Wi-Fi was also down and it had to restore telemetry monitors measuring heart rates, blood pressure and oxygen levels with ethernet cables, according to the CBS News report.

Clinicians across other UHS sites report high anxiety among staff and care teams, especially as the facilities figure out how to identify if patients have been exposed to COVID-19. Patient handoffs are especially nerve-wracking, according to the report, due to risks of miscommunication.

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