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UVM affiliated hospitals slowly regain IT functions

Dr. John Brumsted of UVMHN, file photo courtesy of VTDigger.org

On Friday the head of the network of six Vermont hospitals that saw its internet systems hobbled by a cyberattack 10 days ago said the University of Vermont Health Network’s IT team is making significant progress in restoring communications systems among the hospitals and internally at the hospitals and health care practices.
“That progress may be difficult to see depending on where you are, but we are heading in the right direction,” said Dr. John Brumsted, UVMHN president and CEO, in a message to staff and employees. “We are working to restore systems, with top priority given to systems critical to patient care.”
The network, which includes Middlebury’s Porter Medical Center and affiliated medical practices, is getting help from the Vermont Army National Guard in checking thousands of devices at UVMHN locations are free of malware or viruses.
Officials said they implemented well-practiced standby procedures to continue providing safe patient care, but the attack caused variable impacts on services at the six hospitals and physicians’ practices in the organization.
Officials on Friday were reporting that services remained available at Porter Medical Center in Middlebury, though wait times are longer than usual.
One of the bigger issues appears to be that caregivers do not have access to past patient records due to the IT glitches cause by the cyber attack.
Urgent and emergency care centers at Porter are open, and people are encouraged to seek the care they need.
If you have an appointment at one of the Porter practices, please call 24 hours in advance of your appointment. But officials also asked that patients not call until only one day before the appointment so that offices aren’t overwhelmed by calls.
For security purposes, email is limited at this time, so phone is the best way to reach someone.
Automated text reminders will not be sent in advance of appointments, due to the IT problems, and access to the MyChart Patient Portal is not currently available.
As a stopgap solution UVMHN’s IT team was able to successfully retrieve appointment schedules for several affiliates this week, Brumstead said.
“Our cyberattack response will continue around the clock, over the weekend and into next week,” he said in his note to coleagues. “Given the complexity of this situation, recovery will be steady but incremental. We’re going about this work in the only way we can — thoroughly, deliberately and carefully, with an eye always on the safety and security of our network.”
UVMHN created a web page — UVMHealth.org/cyberattack — that has detailed information on impacted and available services at each organization. This page is updated regularly.
While UVMHN has postponed some non-urgent procedures and has asked patients to hold off on scheduling appointments that can wait, it has continued to provide the care patients need.
“Over the past 10 days, our health network has engaged in a difficult balancing act: We have marshaled every resource available to respond to this cyberattack, while also continuing to respond to the needs of our patients and communities,” Brumstead continued. “There has been a lot of justifiable frustration, and there are services we have been unable to provide. But, while this attack has slowed us, it won’t stop us.
“The simple act of showing up and doing our jobs as best we can is a strong rebuke to those who sought to disrupt our health system.
Officials have said they expect normal functioning of the UVMHN computer system to be restored in a week or two.
The FBI is looking into the source of the cyber attack, which has affected other hospitals in the United States. Reports have said that Russian criminals are suspected in the hack.

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