The CEO's of five area hospitals provide an update on an October cyberattack. April 3, 2024. Image captured from ZOOM media conference.The CEO's of five area hospitals provide an update on an October cyberattack. April 3, 2024. Image captured from ZOOM media conference.

BWH to contact thousands affected by cyberattack

The process of mailing letters to approximately 82,000 Bluewater Health patients, whose personal health information was compromised in a fall cyberattack, started Wednesday.

President and CEO Paula Reaume-Zimmer provided an update on the situation during a ZOOM news conference Wednesday morning, alongside the CEOs of the other impacted hospitals in Leamington, Chatham-Kent, and Windsor.

"Starting today, individuals whose information was impacted will be notified by mail," Reaume-Zimmer said. "Each hospital will notify their own patients. If a patient's social insurance number was affected, we will provide credit monitoring. Some individuals may be receiving multiple letters. This is not a mistake, this is normal, given some patients may have visited more than one of our affected hospitals."

She said these patients were part of, not in addition to, the patients whose information was contained in a database file that was publicly shared by those responsible for the attack.

"To be clear, we are now individually notifying those who had additional personal health information affected other than information contained in the database file," said Reaume-Zimmer.

In November, Bluewater Health reported the hackers behind the October 23, 2023 breach stole the information of over 250,000 patients, including the Social Insurance Numbers (SIN) of 20,000 patients.

Reaume-Zimmer apologized for the complexity of the situation and "how unsettling this has been" for patients.

"Bluewater Health's clinical systems, which were affected by the cyberattack, are now back online in a limited way," she said. "While operations are beginning to normalize, we are at the same time working diligently with TransForm to convert to a regional instance of oracle health in the fall which will provide Bluewater Health with an advanced health information system aimed to improve clinical processes and digital security."

When asked by Sarnia News Today for an update on the backlogs in diagnostic imaging and the diagnostic testing lab, Reaume-Zimmer had a positive report.

"We did have a backlog of approximately 9,000 in diagnostic imaging," she said. "That's CT, XRay, MRI. All of those individual appointments have been rebooked and those individuals are now expecting to arrive for their appointments and Bluewater Health is continuing to work on the referrals that have occurred since then."

When it comes to bringing clinical applications back online, Reaume-Zimmer told Sarnia News Today that process continues.

"Our leaders in the organization, along with TransForm and our hospital peers, prioritize initiatives daily that are coming back online. They have come up in a phased approach. We do have our clinical documentation and our diagnostic imaging and we're bringing up all of the ancillary applications as much as possible."

Updates were also provided by Erie Shores HealthCare, the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, Hôtel-Dieu Grace HealthCare, and Windsor Regional Hospital.

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