Cyberattack Pulls Connecticut Health Network Offline, Spurs Emergency Care Diversion

By Jessica Davis

A cyberattack against Eastern Connecticut Health Network has spurred “systemwide IT complications,” according to the ECHN website. The service disruption has forced ambulance and emergency medical service (EMS) companies to divert patients to area hospitals.

ECHN is owned by Prospect Medical Holdings, a hospital system in California. ECHN operates a network of hospitals, outpatient health service centers, and hundreds of providers and specialists in locations across eastern Connecticut.

It appears the primary target was PMH, as the apparent ransomware attack also disrupted some California care sites, as well as Crozer Health in Delaware, which is also owned by PMH. Reports show the FBI is currently investigating the cyberattack.

ECHN’s Manchester Memorial Hospital and Rockville General Hospital appeared the hardest hit, although the hospitals remain open and continue to accept patients. What’s more, a social media post shows its Waterbury Hospital location has also been brought offline. The outages are affecting both inpatient and outpatient operations. Some appointments are being rescheduled.

All affected hospitals are operating under electronic health record (EHR) downtime, with clinicians leveraging pen-and-paper processes to maintain patient care.

“Ransoming our nation’s hospitals is an attack on national security, public safety, and ultimately patient outcomes,” said First Health Advisory CEO Carter Groome. “When will our lawmakers get serious about addressing the continuous onslaught impacting lives and the trust we all need in our care institutions?”

“This whole-of-society challenge includes elected officials, who are entrusted with protecting the well being of our citizens,” he continued. “The health sector IS systemically important and has faced this threat for nearly a decade. It well past time to act.”

The attack initially impacted all ECHN locations, including all primary and specialty care sites, the urgent care center, and outpatient laboratories. Patients with previously scheduled appointments were directly contacted by the hospital for cancelations.

As of Aug. 4, the IT complications are continuing to affect some ECHN locations, and all elective surgeries and gastroenterology appointments and procedures have been cancelled. These cancelations will continue “until further notice.”

ECHN’s Urgent Care Center has also been closed until further notice, as well as its Center for Wound Healing, Evergreen Imaging Center, Diagnostics, Podiatry Clinic, Tolland Imaging Center, and Women’s Center for Wellness. Some patients have taken to social media to express concerns and frustrations about appointment delays, particularly around needed MRIs.

This year has also seen a record-number of outages at health entities and hospitals due to cyberattacks. For some, the EHR downtime has exceeded more than a month due to complicated recovery processes. Nearly a dozen providers were brought offline in the spring, including Murfreesboro Medical Clinic & SurgiCenter, Norton Healthcare, Point 32 Health, and Cornwall Community Hospital, among others.

Currently, a cyberattack deployed against third-party vendor Ortivus led to disruptions at two UK ambulance services, while a cyberattack on CardioComm solutions has caused delay in its business operations, as well as services for several of its medical device products.

Data confirms these attacks lead to serious patient safety risks, not just for the targeted hospital but for regional care partners as well, due to unplanned surges in patients diverted from downed hospitals. Lengthy outages also lead to business disruptions, lost revenue, possible lawsuits, and reputational harms.