Illinois hospital links closing to ransomware attack

Illinois hospital links closing to ransomware attack

SPRING VALLEY, Ill. (NewsNation) — An Illinois hospital will close its doors this week due in part to a cyberattack two years ago, which analysts said makes it the first hospital to publicly link criminal hackers to its closure.

St. Margaret’s Health in Spring Valley fell victim to a cyberattack in 2021. It was unable to submit claims to insurers, Medicare or Medicaid for months, which led to a financial spiral. 

Now, St. Margaret’s will close its doors on Friday.

Sister Suzanne Stahl, who is the chair of the hospital’s parent organization SMP Health, said the cyber attack, coupled with being a rural hospital with staffing shortages, was too much for it to overcome. 

“Rural hospitals have been struggling throughout the nation and many have already closed,” Stahl said. “It has become impossible to sustain our ministry. This saddens us greatly.”

Ransomware attacks on hospitals aren’t uncommon. Federal data shows attacks have been on the rise, with nearly 300 targeted in 2022. However, none of them have shuttered as a result of the attack, until now.

When hospitals are hit with ransomware attacks, they often have to scramble to find ways to suddenly work without the computer systems that have become indispensable in modern health care. 

“The average cyberattack on a health care system leads to 19 days of patients being unable to receive some form of care,” according to data from cyber security firm Cyber Peace Institute.

Several government agencies including the FBI and the National Security Agency recently updated the #StopRansomware Guide in an effort to help all organizations reduce the impact and likelihood of ransomware incidents. 

The hospital’s closure means residents will have to deal with longer commutes for some healthcare services. They’ll have to travel about 30 minutes for emergency room and obstetrics services.

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