The Coast News Group
Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside. Stock photo
Tri-City Medical Center in Oceanside. Stock photo
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Tri-City grapples with cybersecurity attack, operations affected

OCEANSIDE — Tri-City Medical Center continues to grapple with a cybersecurity attack that has undercut hospital operations since last week.

According to a statement from Tri-City, the hospital became aware of “unauthorized activity” on its computer network on Nov. 9 and immediately took its system offline to halt the spread of activity. The hospital then hired a third-party cybersecurity specialist to help investigate the attack, restore its systems and reinforce its cyber defenses to prevent another future attack.

A county source confirmed the attack was ransomware, according to NBC7.

The hospital is also coordinating with law enforcement and has notified San Diego County’s Office of Emergency Services that it has placed itself on “Internal Disaster Diversion.”

“This means the hospital cannot accept patients through the 9-1-1 system at this time,” said Chuck Westerheide, a county public safety communications officer, via email. “For background, this is typically done because of a critical disruption of the ability to provide medical services (i.e., a ransomware attack).”

Ambulances are being diverted to nearby hospitals like Palomar Medical Center Escondido and Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas. Both hospitals have seen increased emergency service activity since the cyberattack began.

Elective procedures, non-emergency surgeries or operations typically scheduled in advance have been temporarily paused since the attack. However, the hospital is still accepting walk-in traffic to its emergency room.

“Our top priority remains the health and wellness of our patients, and we continue to serve patients with emergency needs at this time,” Tri-City’s statement reads. “We will share updates with our staff, patients and the community when new information becomes available through our investigation.”

The hospital has yet to confirm if there is a ransom demand from the hackers who infiltrated its network or if protected patient information has been compromised. If confirmed, the hospital will send data breach letters to patients whose information was impacted.

At least two class action law firms, Console & Associates and Potter Handy, have issued statements that they are investigating the data breach and are asking patients who have received letters regarding the data breach to reach out.

Tri-City isn’t the only hospital in the region to suffer from a cybersecurity attack. In the last few years, Scripps Health, Sharp and UC San Diego Health have all previously dealt with attacks.

In 2021, UC San Diego Health, which recently partnered with Tri-City to take over the hospital’s operations next March, fell victim to a data breach that targeted employee email accounts, potentially containing information about patients, students and employees.

Due to the ransomware attack, Scripps Health lost millions and was offline for approximately one month before returning to full operations, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. In 2022, Scripps settled a class action lawsuit after about 147,000 patients faced potential impacts from the breach.

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