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In an unexpected turn of events, a computer outage during routine maintenance affected operations at 15 UNC Health hospitals, forcing a temporary halt to patient services. The disruption lasted for three hours on Wednesday night, impacting UNC Rex, among others.
The outage was repaired by 10:30 p.m., and operations returned to normal at UNC Rex. During the downtime, the affected hospitals could only accommodate walk-in patients, with ambulance admissions being temporarily suspended. While UNC Health did not provide specific numbers, a WakeMed spokesperson emphasized hospitals’ efforts to avoid diversions and quickly normalize operations with community support.
According to a UNC Health spokesperson, the network outage resulted from an unforeseen issue during routine maintenance. Clark Walton, managing director of Reliance Forensics, highlighted the challenges of upgrading systems securely, acknowledging that unplanned issues can arise during the process.
UNC Health assured that the outage was not caused by malicious activity, expressing confidence in the security of patient data. The organization activated its contingency plan to ensure the continued care of patients already in the facilities. Alan Wolf, a UNC Health spokesperson, praised the hospital staff for their exceptional response, emphasizing their dedication to maintaining high-level patient care.
Despite the challenges, UNC Health managed the situation by pulling in extra staff, reallocating resources, and resorting to manual processes, ensuring that patient care remained unaffected. The IT team is collaborating with vendors to investigate the root cause of the outage.
Brett Callow, a threat analyst with EMSISOFT, emphasized the broader impact of system downtime, stating that the cause, whether ransomware or an IT error, is secondary to the loss of connectivity. Dr. Wesley Burks, CEO of UNC Health, acknowledged the incident in a letter to staff, expressing the organization’s commitment to reviewing and refining response plans for similar situations in the future.
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