Update: Computer systems not yet back to normal after cyberattack at Savannah's largest hospital system

A ransomware attack that was first detected Thursday continued to affect computer systems at St. Joseph's/Candler on Friday.

While officials continued to investigate the incident Friday, back-up processes and other computer downtime procedures remained in place for a second day.

"These procedures are specifically designed for events like system upgrades or other circumstances that may cause computer downtime," spokesman Scott Larson wrote in a prepared statement late Friday afternoon. "Our physicians, nurses and staff are trained to provide care in these types of situations and are committed to doing everything they can to mitigate disruption and provide uninterrupted care to our patients."

The faith-based, not-for-profit health system includes two anchor hospitals, Candler in midtown Savannah and St. Joseph's on Savannah's south side with a combined 714 beds making it the largest in the area.

Patient care continued both days with old-fashioned paper records filling in for computer systems in some cases.

"If you currently have an appointment for imaging, surgery, primary care, specialty physician practices or any other outpatient procedure, you should keep your appointment," Larson wrote. "You will be contacted if your appointment needs to be rescheduled for any reason."

Cancer care patients are a notable exception. Larson advised them to  contact their doctors directly to check on the status of appointments and procedures.

"The investigation into the incident is ongoing, and it is critically important to protect the integrity of the investigation," Larson wrote Friday. "We will share updates as appropriate."

On Thursday the hospital system released the following statement explaining the cyberattack:

"On the morning of June 17, St. Joseph’s/Candler became aware of suspicious computer network activity. As a security measure, SJ/C took immediate steps to isolate systems and to limit the potential impact," spokesman Scott Larson wrote.

"We also promptly initiated an investigation into the scope of the incident, which is ongoing and in its early stages, although SJ/C has confirmed that the incident involved ransomware. Law enforcement has been notified. If we determine that personal or health information is involved in this incident, we will notify those individuals in accordance with applicable law."

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St. Joseph's/Candler did not cancel any surgeries or procedures on Thursday, though independent doctors may have chosen to do so, Larson said.

"Nothing is more important to us than continuing to provide the care our patients expect," Larson statement continued. "Patient care operations continue at our facilities using established backup processes and other downtime procedures. Our physicians, nurses and staff are trained to provide care in these types of situations and are committed to doing everything they can to mitigate disruption and provide uninterrupted care to our patients.

"We thank our patients for their patience during this time and apologize for any delays they may experience as we continue to work diligently to address this situation. We will continue to provide updates as appropriate."

On Thursday Dr. Bonzo Reddick of the J.C. Lewis Primary Health Care Center learned of the outage through a co-worker with a friend who works at St. Joseph's/Candler. Reddick was hoping for a quick resolution.

"People can die from this," he texted.

That's because electronic medical records are often connected to the lab results, patient history, and ability to write orders on patients.

"If you have a critically ill patient, a delay in being able to look up their history, find out their lab results, or quickly put in orders can be the difference between life and death," he texted.

Telephones appeared to be working at both hospitals by 3 p.m., with a St. Joseph's operator confirming that some computers were still down at that time.

Rival hospital system, the 612-bed Memorial Health in Savannah, did not experience any computer outages Thursday, a spokeswoman said.

Georgia Ports Authority Spokesman Edward Fulford confirmed the ports were "running smoothly" with no interruptions in its computer operations.

Mary Landers is the environment and health reporter at the Savannah Morning News. Contact her at 912-655-8295. Twitter: @MaryLandersSMN

This article originally appeared on Savannah Morning News: Update: Computer systems not yet back to normal after cyberattack at Savannah's largest hospital system