AUSTIN (KXAN) — It’s now been several days since Ascension, a healthcare company in Central Texas, said it detected unusual activity on network systems, which they believed to be a “cybersecurity event.”

The announcement came May 8.

“At this time we continue to investigate the situation,” Ascension said. “We responded immediately, initiated our investigation and activated our remediation efforts. Access to some systems have been interrupted as this process continues.”

The company said its teams are trained for these kinds of disruptions. Ascension said its hospital and facilities are open.

“There has been a disruption to clinical operations, and we continue to assess the impact and duration of the disruption.”


However, several hospitals are currently on diversion for emergency medical services. Ascension said it doesn’t have a timeline for when things will be resolved.

Who is investigating?

The company said it’s investigating what information, if any, may have been affected by the situation.

Over the weekend, Ascension updated that it’s working with cybersecurity experts to investigate the ransomware incident.

The company said it notified law enforcement, as well as government partners like:

  • The Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency
  • The Department of Health and Human Services
  • The American Hospital Association

“While our restoration work continues in earnest, our focus is on restoring systems as safely as possible. While we expect this process will take time to complete, we are making progress and systems are being restored in a coordinated manner at each of our care sites. We will continue to share updates on our recovery process.”


What services are impacted?

Ascension said the systems currently unavailable are:

  • Electronic health records systems
  • Various systems used to order certain tests, procedures and medications

The company said some non-emergent elective procedures, tests and appointments have been temporarily paused while it tries to bring systems back online.

‘Hours to do a ten-minute job’

Helen Becker found herself caught in the middle of the chaos.

“It takes hours and hours and hours to do a 10-minute job,” Becker said.

  • Ascension Cybersecurity Event
  • Ascension Cybersecurity Event

Becker was admitted to Ascension Seton in Williamson County on Wednesday. It was the same day the company announced an investigation into cybersecurity concerns.

“I had an order sent in for an echocardiogram,” Becker said. “It sat inside my folder for three days and never was processed.”

The problems made electronic health records and systems to order certain tests, procedures and medications, unavailable.

“The orders were transcribed on a post it note. Then they had other people that were runners because the phone system was also down.”

Helen Becker

Becker said even though she was discharged, she is still unsettled about the situation.

“I’m afraid something really bad is gonna happen,” Becker said.

‘Opportunities for human error’

A nurse, who asked us to conceal her identity, said it caused major delays.

“Days behind on results,” she said. “Essentially like that game telephone when you’re a kid, and you talk to the person to your right or left, and then it goes to the next person. That’s how patient care is getting done.”

The nurse told KXAN that the reception phones at the nurse’s station are working, however, that’s not the case for the work phones staff members have with them.

“That system is shut down. So all calls are going through the reception desk at the nurse’s station but the receptionist has nowhere to actually forward the call to the individual,” she said.

So instead, people are having to use notepads or their private cell phones.

Ultimately, the nurse is worried about potential mistakes.

“This paper system, there are like four times as many opportunities for human error. When you enter something into the computer, it’s done.”

Ascension Seton Nurse

EMS adjustments

Austin-Travis County EMS also made adjustments during this time.

ATCEMS Chief of Operations Kevin Parker said they’re taking patients who need a CT scan or MRI to specific facilities to streamline.

“Dell Seton, Dell Children’s, and Seton main,” Parker said. “Seton can have those radiologists in-house and available to read those imaging studies.”

Less serious patients who wouldn’t need the advanced imaging studies are taken a little bit further out.

“So that way, even though we are moving patients between different facilities, the overall load within that network is about the same,” Parker said.