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Scripps Health Ongoing Cyberattack Wreaks Havoc With Appointments, Services

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Photo by Roland Lizarondo

Above: A "Scripps Clinic" sign in Rancho Bernardo, May 3, 2021.

A security breach first reported on Saturday at Scripps Health is still ongoing and it is unclear when online services could be restored for one of San Diego's largest health care providers.

"Being in limbo is very, very stressful," said Scripps Ranch resident Allison Weisman, who had a breast biopsy scheduled for Tuesday that was canceled due the cyberattack.

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"My sister was just diagnosed with breast cancer and my mother passed away of breast cancer so it’s very important for me to get some results," Weisman said.

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Scripps Health officials have not been releasing many details about the malware attack that was first reported over the weekend. Their most recent update from Tuesday said a cybersecurity firm has been contracted to assist in restoring critical services after finding malware on their computer networks.

"Scripps Health physicians, nurses and staff are implementing workarounds to mitigate any disruptions and provide uninterrupted care to our patients," said a spokesperson for the health care giant Tuesday adding teams are working around the clock to resolve the issue.

Since Saturday the Scripps Health website and other online systems have been dark, forcing some appointments and other critical operations to be put on hold.

"I’m up about every hour during the night checking their website to see if it’s up and running checking the app," Weisman said. "I call multiples times a day."

RELATED: Scripps Health physicians, nurses and staff are implementing workarounds to mitigate any disruptions and provide uninterrupted care to our patients.

Many frustrated patients are taking to social media, asking if any personal data has been compromised, and when they will be able to rebook appointments.

"If it’s only going to be a week or a few days I can hang on but it’s the not knowing and that’s the big frustration with me: Scripps has not been forthcoming with information," Weisman said.

Weisman has been looking into getting treatment at UC San Diego Health, but she would have to pay out of pocket for that, and she is not the only one looking for health care elsewhere as the cyberattack nears its sixth day.

UC San Diego Health officials are reporting an increase in patients coming to their facilities.

"Especially to the emergency departments at UC San Diego Health Medical Center in Hillcrest and Jacobs Medical Center in La Jolla," a UCSD spokesperson said via an emailed statement. "In response, we have increased staff where needed and have coordinated patient overflow areas as necessary to accommodate the additional volume."

A Sharp HealthCare spokesperson said they were also seeing increased emergency room visits as Scripps health is on bypass, but neither Scripps nor San Diego County health officials would confirm that. A spokesperson from the health department described it as a dynamic situation.

"I just think that Scripps really needs to let people know, let their patients know, what’s going on and not leaving us in limbo," Wiesman said.

The state health department said they are closely monitoring the impacted hospitals, adding they are operational and caring for patients using emergency protocols.

"The department has authority to involuntarily suspend facility licenses in extreme circumstances that pose immediate risk to patient safety," an emailed California Department of Public Health (CDPH) statement read. "Facilities reliance on emergency protocols does not automatically warrant such action."

CDPH officials added that if anyone feels patient care has been compromised or negatively impacted by the cyberattack, they can file a complaint with CDPH which will trigger an investigation.

There is no indication of when the cyberattack will be resolved. The FBI said Thursday they are aware of the incident and while federal investigators cannot comment directly about this, cyber crimes and their impacts to communities are taken seriously.

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Matt Hoffman
Health Reporter

opening quote marksclosing quote marksI am a general assignment reporter for KPBS. In addition to covering the latest news and issues that are relevant to the San Diego community, I like to dig deeper to find the voices and perspectives that other media often miss.

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