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Computer attack targets Care New England hospital group

Target 12

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Care New England hospital system is being seriously affected by an apparent attack on its computer system, Target 12 has learned.

Care New England is Rhode Island’s second-largest hospital group, owner of Women & Infants, Kent and Butler, as well as one of the state’s largest employers. Its president and CEO, Dr. James Fanale, confirmed the situation in a brief statement Tuesday afternoon.

“Care New England has experienced a data security incident,” Fanale said. “It has employed IT security firms to understand the scope of the incident, and bring the matter to resolution. Patient care remains first and foremost priority.”

At 4 p.m. Tuesday, loading the URL for CNE’s website brought up an error message that said, “The page cannot be displayed because an internal server error has occurred.”

In a follow-up interview, Fanale told WPRI 12 he wasn’t ready to say whether Care New England had been hacked, and declined to say whether any ransom demand had been issued as has happened to health systems in other places.

“The good news is, we’ve been able to continue taking care of our patients, save for a couple of small areas where we couldn’t,” he said, giving the example of a backup radiology system.

The problem first came to light first thing early Tuesday morning, “and we thought it was serious at the outset,” Fanale said. Employees have been using paper systems to continue handling patient care amid the disruption, he said.

Experts are still trying to determine whether any patient information was compromised.

“One of the challenges is, we’ve kind of shut everything down — I’m having trouble communicating with everybody,” Fanale said, adding that executives at Lifespan and Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Rhode Island have reached out to help.

Joseph Wendelken, a spokesperson for the R.I. Health Department, said department officials were aware of the situation.

“We are coordinating with the emergency preparedness coordinators at the hospitals, and with CNE leadership,” he said. “There have been no impacts on patient care because of the IT issue, but we are working with them to monitor the situation.”

An FBI spokesperson declined to comment.

Ted Nesi (tnesi@wpri.com) is WPRI 12’s politics and business editor and a Target 12 investigative reporter. He is a weekly panelist on Newsmakers and hosts Executive Suite. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook

Danielle North and Tim White contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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