Topeka emergency room diverting patients to other facilities following ransomware attack

A hospital in Topeka is one of the facilities across multiple states being forced to divert patients to other emergency rooms following a ransomware attack last week.

As of 8:30 a.m. Thursday, the University of Kansas Health System St. Francis Campus had moved to a cautionary divert system, asking local emergency medical services to bring stroke and neurosurgical patients to other area emergency rooms. The system was put in place as Ardent Health Services, a healthcare company that owns 30 hospitals and more than 200 care sites, works to come back from a ransomware attack.

“As we work to bring our systems back online, we will continue to evaluate our ability to safely care for critically ill patients in our Emergency Room,” Debbie Cluck, a hospital spokeswoman, said in a statement. “Because this is rapidly changing and dependent upon a number of factors, we will continue to update our status as the situation changes.”

The hospital continues to provide medical screening exams and stabilizing care to patients arriving at the emergency room, and ambulances can transport non-critical patients to the facility.

The attack forced Ardent to take its network offline, suspending user access to corporate servers, internet and clinical programs and other applications, the organization said in a news release Monday.

Ardent reported the incident to law enforcement and hired third-party forensic and threat intelligence advisors. Additional information technology security protocols have been put in place, and Ardent is working with cybersecurity partners to restore its operations.

The organization couldn’t confirm the extent of patient health or financial data that has been compromised.

“In the interim, while this incident results in temporary disruption to certain aspects of Ardent’s clinical and financial operations, patient care continues to be delivered safely and effectively in its hospitals, emergency rooms, and clinics,” Ardent said.

“In an abundance of caution, our facilities are rescheduling some non-emergent, elective procedures and diverting some emergency room patients to other area hospitals until systems are back online.”