Over the past year, cyberattacks on American healthcare systems had been their own type of pandemic, as Russian cybercriminals have closed down coronavirus vaccine human trials and clinical experiments as well as cut off the connection of facilities to health records, seeking multimillion-dollar ransom money for their release.
Last week, President Trump terminated Christopher Krebs, the director of CISA, the cybersecurity department charged with protecting sensitive systems from cyber threats, such as hospitals and elections, when he contested the president's unfounded accusations of vote-rigging.
Colleen Cargill had been at the University of Vermont Medical Center's cancer center at lunchtime on October 28, readying patients for their chemotherapy injections.
Sometimes a new patient would be tearful and scared; however, the nurses work hard to make it inviting, providing a trail mix, and even a cozy blanket, a seat with a garden view.
However, Cargill took a two-time trip that day as she got locked out when she attempted to log in to her workplace, and this happened again and again. She transferred to the pneumatic tube system to move laboratory work, yet what she can see was the red mark of caution, a circle with a cross. She went to the computer with the backup, and it was down too.
"I wasn't panicky," Cargill stated, "and then I noticed my cordless phone didn't work." That was, she said, the beginning of the worst ten days of her career.
Such cyberattacks have generally occurred in private, as hospitals are working to rebuild their networks without revealing details that could undermine the F.B.I. investigations.
However, staff and patients in Vermont's biggest health industry stated that the attacks had a destructive and lengthy impact, especially on cancer patients. Its electronic health records software has been activated on Sunday, almost a month after the cyberattacks.
The view from the inside
The cyberattack emitted out through a vast network in Vermont, affecting the cancer center particularly hard.
The nurse in-charge, Cargill, had this to say: "My really good friends are I.C.U. nurses and they're like, no big deal, all we have to do is paper charting." However, for weeks, the cancer center could accommodate just about one in four of its usual chemotherapy patients.
Almost a month later, Cargill spent the remainder of the day driving away patients, an incident she cannot talk about without starting to weep.
A young woman, the very first patient that she refused, broke down in tears. "To look someone in the eye, and tell them they cannot have their life-extending or lifesaving treatment, it was horrible and totally heart-wrenching," said Cargill.
Legere, a nurse navigator in the hospital, had stated that health personnel tried to prioritize patients and reconstruct chemotherapy procedures from memory in the days that followed, slowly assisted by backup chart information.
"They were trying to remember everything they knew about a patient, but none of that is accurate," Legere stated. "Our brains are not designed to be electronic medical records. That's not safe, and we all know it."
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