Hospital network chose to shutdown its system to protect patients, spokeswoman says

The electronic shutdown due to a cyberattack at Finger Lakes Health, which persisted for the third day Wednesday, is by choice, a spokeswoman said. Finger Lakes Health went into lockdown, turning to paper use instead of internet and other electronic communication, after being notified about midnight Sunday of the attack.

The shutdown is “in response to learning someone had tried to be in our system. We shut everything down, a lot of it by our choice,” Lara Turbide, vice president of community services for Finger Lakes Health, said Wednesday.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the law enforcement agency probing the hack. Specific electronic systems were encrypted by an outside party who is demanding payment to decrypt access, according to Finger Lakes Health. The health network includes two hospitals, Geneva General in Geneva and Soldiers & Sailors Memorial in Penn Yan, in addition to four nursing homes, eight primary care physician practices, an ambulatory surgery center, two Urgent Care sites and six specialty-care practices, among others.

Turbide said “paper downtime” would continue through Wednesday with no specific timeline for returning to electronic operations. The decision was made to protect patients, residents and employees, she said: “We took immediate action.” Finger Lakes Health “elected” to bring down the systems to “minimize any risk,” she said.

Turbide reiterated there is “no indication that patient or employee information has been compromised.”

Initially, fax and phone systems were down along with internet. By Wednesday afternoon, most all phone systems were back up, according to Turbide. For those still having trouble reaching their providers or others in the system via phone, Turbine urged them to call the main number, 315-787-4000 for someone to help them.

Turbide said Finger Lakes Health has secure access to patients’ medical records and there are no interruptions in treatment and services due to the paper downtime. On Monday morning, some colonoscopies were cancelled due to the cyberattack but those scheduled procedures have been performed, she said.

The procedures in place now are the ones staff have drilled for many times to prepare for all kinds of situations that include power outages and weather emergencies, she said.

“It takes a little more effort from our staff, things may take a little longer as it requires going back to written notes and paper medical records,” Turbide added. She said when Finger Lakes Health returns to using its electronic systems it will be done “thoughtfully and deliberately,” though she couldn’t say when that would be.


Need help?

Anyone experiencing trouble reaching someone with Finger Lakes Health should call the main number: 315-787-4000