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Patients diverted from St. Mary's Medical Center following outage

Still unclear what caused failure of phone, computer systems
St. Mary's Medical Center
Posted at 5:18 PM, Apr 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-04-25 23:12:53-04

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — Fallout continues from last week's failure of computer and phone systems at two West Palm Beach hospitals.

WPTV NewsChannel 5 spent much of Monday trying to contact the spokeswoman for Tenet Health, the owner of Good Samaritan and St. Mary's medical centers, but has received no answers.

WPTV has also learned that the federal Joint Commission, the agency involved in accrediting health care facilities, is now looking into both hospitals.

A Joint Commission spokesperson said its office of quality and patient safety is taking a look at the case based on WPTV's reporting.

In the meantime, Contact 5 has learned that emergency medical crews have redirected patients away from St. Mary's Medical Center.

Also, patients and staffers at these hospitals are concerned about the quality of care.

RELATED: Patients voice concerns about medical records after network outage at hospitals

In an email to WPTV, one nurse, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of losing her job, said the system failure could lead to medical errors — "one of the most frightening possibilities we face as nurses."

Tenet nurse shares concerns about hospital outage
A nurse emailed WPTV to say our report about the outage was "spot on."

Staffers have reverted to writing patient orders on paper.

They currently don't have the computer system that gives medical information at their fingertips, which concerns Good Samaritan patient John Rodriguez.

"They could screw up and give me the wrong medicine or something," Rodriguez said.

Contact 5 has also learned that emergency medical crews in West Palm Beach and Riviera Beach had to divert St. Mary's Medical Center patients to other hospitals.

Good Samaritan patient John Rodriguez
Good Samaritan patient John Rodriguez discusses his concerns about the outage.

A Riviera Beach spokesperson released the following statement: "St. Mary's is having some internal computer problems and is on diversion for stroke alerts and obstetric emergencies being transported by fire rescue."

It is still unclear what caused the failure of the phone and computer systems.

"From the bits and pieces that we're getting, and the amount of time it’s taking to get this up, and the way it's coming up in stages, it would seem to be a ransomware attack," said Alan Crowetz, president and CEO of InfoStream, Inc., a computer and business-consulting firm based out of West Palm Beach.

Alan Crowetz, president and CEO of InfoStream, Inc., speak on Tenet hospital outage
Alan Crowetz shares his thoughts on what could have caused the outage at the two West Palm Beach hospitals.

WPTV sent Crowetz technical emails obtained from one of the Tenet hospitals to analyze. He said this is clearly not a technical failure or a computer crash but most likely a group seeking ransomware coming from Russia or a Russian ally.

"We do know that Russia right now, because they're pretty upset about the sanctions and everything like that, has made it a point to go after certain industries, including health care," Crowetz said. "That would be Russia’s motive. As much damage, destruction and panic, terror as you can inflict.”

WPTV did not hear from Tenet Health System despite several calls and emails. In a statement this weekend, spokeswoman Shelly Weiss Friedberg said the hospital was in the process of bringing the systems back up.

Weiss Friedberg also took issue with WPTV's report suggesting that a medication error could result from the paper charting. She called that "preposterous" and asked that the story be taken offline.

WPTV stands by our reporting on this story.

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