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UPDATE 3-Universal Health says its network remains offline, blames 'malware'

Tue, 29th Sep 2020 18:37

(Recasts with company confirming outage)

By Raphael Satter

WASHINGTON, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Hospital chain Universal
Health Services' network remains offline on Tuesday, two
days after falling prey to a malware attack, the company said.

UHS, which operates about 400 hospitals and care centers
across the United States and the United Kingdom, said in a
statement it was dealing with a "security incident caused by
malware." The company said its British operations had not been
impacted.

UHS has provided few details, but experts and employees said
the outage had the hallmarks of ransomware, a breed of malicious
software that locks users out of their computers until a digital
payment is made.

UHS employees have reported disruptions across the country
as doctors and nurses scrambled to rewire machines and switch to
pen and pen paper recordkeeping.

At UHS's Cedar Hills Hospital outside Portland, Oregon,
prescriptions and delivery of medication to patients were
disrupted, one employee said, noting that some patients were
agitated and shouting at nurses.

"In a psych ward it's very problematic," the employee said,
speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized
to speak to the media. "Psychiatric patients need their
medication. It causes a lot of tension and stress."

UHS spokeswoman Jane Crawford said in an email that Cedar
Hills Hospital was using "a downtime protocol that allows us to
manage medications manually" and that prescriptions for
discharged patients were being written down manually.

"We are confident that we can and will continue to meet the
needs of our patients," she said.

In a statement released earlier Tuesday, Crawford
acknowledged that "this matter may result in temporary
disruptions to certain aspects of our clinical and financial
operations."

She forwarded the emails to Reuters using her personal email
address; emails sent to her professional account were returned
as undeliverable.
(Reporting by Raphael Satter; Editing by Alistair Bell and
Leslie Adler)

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