The leadership at five hospitals in the region is hoping to earn back the trust of the public following a cyberattack that has crippled their technology systems and resulted in a massive data breach.

The CEOs of the five affected organizations, including the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance, took part in a joint news conference last week to provide an update and field questions relating to the October 23 ransomware attack.

The attack targeting TransForm Shared Service Organization, which runs the technology systems at all five hospitals, resulted in varying amounts of patient and staff data being stolen.

Kristin Kennedy, CEO of Erie Shores HealthCare, said despite the data breach, the leadership at each hospital remains confident in their service provider.

“I can assure the community, our patients and our staff that TransForm is working around the clock to support prioritization of clinical services,” she said. “[As well as creating] a prioritization list for a longer term strategy of rebuilding and highlighting the importance of rebuilding, so we do minimize these attacks moving forward.”

Since the attack, concerns have also been raised about how the cyberattack has eroded the public’s trust in each organization’s ability to protect their personal information.

“Our focus is on [the community], our focus is on our staff, to regain that trust and to work towards that,” said Windsor Regional Hospital CEO David Musyj. “We are confident coming out of this that we will be stronger as organizations, but also we’re confident that our teams and what they’re doing now and how they’ve responded to this is already earning back some of that trust.”

However, Musyj pointed out that the five hospitals were victims of sophisticated cyber criminals and, unfortunately, it is unlikely that they will be the last to be targeted in the future.

Locally at CKHA, hospital officials have said their electronic patient health records were not affected by the data breach. However, an employee database report containing the personal information of about 1,446 current and former employees was stolen.

CKHA is also still in the process of restoring its network and computer services, which experienced a massive outage during the attack.

Lori Marshall, president and CEO at CKHA, said restoration efforts are being completed in a phased approach, with critical patient systems being the top priority for all hospitals. Those systems are expected to be restored in mid-December.

“From a systems perspective, restoration efforts have included a review of each system in the regional ecosystem to review whether or not the server was impacted. And if it was, following a series of steps to ensure it is backed up, restored, scanned, repaired and placed behind a new firewall,” said Marshall.

Bill Marra, the president and CEO of Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare, said rebuilding each hospital’s servers and firewalls will ultimately ensure greater digital protection. He added that the ongoing investigations into the cyberattack will also help to strengthen each system.

“There are two concurrent investigations — a criminal one and a digital investigation,” said Marra. “Those results will inform any future decisions we have to make around securing our systems.”