MANCHESTER, Conn. (WTNH) — The FBI is investigating an “ongoing cyber ransomware” attack impacting Eastern Connecticut Health Network (ECHN) and Waterbury HEALTH Thursday, News 8 confirmed.

ECHN and Waterbury HEALTH are part of Prospect Medical Holdings, which serves 19 towns in eastern Connecticut, including Manchester Memorial Hospital and Rockville General Hospital.

The emergency departments at Manchester Memorial Hospital and Rockville General Hospital are diverting ambulance services until the issues are resolved. People who are in need of emergency care can still walk in.

Robert Fuller, special agent in charge of the New Haven Field Office of the FBI, issued a statement regarding the investigation.

“We are working closely with law enforcement partners and the victim entities to address the issues,” Fuller said. “At this time there is no further information we can share as this is an ongoing investigation. If and when information can be shared we will do so.”

“It was a ransomware attack,” Jillian Menzel, ECHN’s chief operating officer told News 8. “We are unsure at this time of the extent of that attack. We have a prospect team that is working on that. There’s a national command center that is working on that currently.”

As of 6:30 p.m. Thursday, ECHN’s website lists the following services and locations as closed until further notice:

  • Center for Wound Healing
  • Elective surgeries
  • Evergreen Imaging Center
  • Gastroenterology appointments & procedures
  • Outpatient Laboratories (ECHN Diagnostics)
  • Podiatry Clinic
  • Tolland Imaging Center
  • Urgent Care Center
  • Women’s Center for Wellness

Waterbury HEALTH said all inpatient and outpatient operations are affected by the issue.

“Our computer systems are down with the outage affecting all Waterbury HEALTH inpatient and outpatient operations,” a post on the hospital’s Facebook page read. “We are in the process of reevaluating our downtime capabilities and may reschedule some appointments. Affected patients will be contacted. Waterbury Hospital is following downtime procedures, including the use of paper records, until this is resolved. Patient visitation is not affected.”

Based in Los Angeles, Prospect Medical Holdings owns and operates 16 hospitals and a network of more than 165 outpatient facilities and clinics in Connecticut, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania and Southern California.

Frederick Scholl is director of the cybersecurity program at Quinnipiac University. He says these types of security attacks are common with healthcare systems often being targeted.

“Obviously very time sensitive, people are going to emergency rooms, they’re having procedures and so hackers tend to take advantage of that in terms of extortion, demands and other ways that they can try and make money on what they’re doing,” Scholl said.

Spokespeople for ECHN and Waterbury Health say they are working with IT experts to resolve the issue and will contact impacted patients.

“I think it’s a matter of being continuously diligent about your home computing systems and your medical records, checking your bank statements so I don’t think there’s a single thing you can do when you have an incident like this but hopefully, and not just hopefully, these kinds of incidents make us all think more about where we are vulnerable, are we protecting our information,” Scholl said.

ECHN Chief Operating Officer Jillian Menzel says they redirected ambulances to other healthcare systems in the state, but that did not have a major impact. 

“About 20 percent of our patient populations come by ambulance, so a lower percentage than one may think,” Menzel said. 

Menzel says they stopped diverting ambulances as of 10 a.m. Friday and are reevaluating the situation every few hours through a command center. 

Patients have been allowed to walk-in to the emergency departments. 

“The [emergency departments] never closed for any walk-in care that is at all of our sites,” Menzel said. “Both Manchester Memorial and Rockville General EDs have always been open for care.” 

The attack forced Waterbury Health and ECHN to operate on paper records, which Menzel says is not unusual for staff. 

“Our nurses are very well-versed in the paper process that we have,” Menzel said. “This is why we do drills, every once in a while, to make sure that all the areas are up to date on this process.”  

Certain operations, such as elective surgeries, are still being cancelled or rescheduled. 

“We have printed copies of those schedules; so, we’ve been trying to make those decisions well in advance so patients don’t prep for surgery,” Menzel said. “So, those patients are being called. They’re not just arriving with no notification that an elective surgery has been cancelled.” 

We reached out to Waterbury Health for an update but have not received a response.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.