Hackensack Meridian Health Pays Ransom For Computer Data; Nurse Staffing Level Reform Bill Introduced

Source: NJ101.5.com

Hackensack Meridian Health, New Jersey’s largest hospital system, said in a statement that a ransomware attack last week disrupted its computer network and that it paid a ransom to stop it.

The attack forced hospitals to reschedule nonemergency surgeries and doctors and nurses to deliver care without access to electronic records.

The system said it was advised by experts not to disclose until Friday that it had been the victim of a ransomware attack. It said that its network’s primary clinical systems had returned to being operational, and that information technology specialists were working to bring all of its applications back online.

Hackensack Meridian said it had no indication that any patient information was subject to unauthorized access or disclosure.

It quickly notified the FBI and other authorities and spoke with cybersecurity and forensic experts, it said.

Hackensack Meridian operates 17 acute care and specialty hospitals, nursing homes, outpatient centers, and the psychiatric facility Carrier Clinic. They did not say in its statement how much it paid to regain control over its systems but said it holds insurance coverage for such emergencies.

A bill recently introduced by Assemblywoman Nancy Munoz would require health care facilities to establish committees of nurses to set nurse staffing levels at New Jersey hospitals and health care facilities.

Judi Schmidt, CEO of the New Jersey Nurses Association, says she agrees with the bill.

“I think what we need to do is a more focus on having the individual nurses having more input into what the appropriate staffing should be for those units that nurses are working on,” Schmidt said.

“Doctors, nurses — they’re the ones that know what type of staff needs to be. So I think having the nurses comprising the majority of the membership on a staffing committee is an excellent idea.”

Munoz, a Republican from Union County, is also a licensed nurse.

Her legislation allows the committees to consider nurse experience, facility technology and the physical structure of the nursing unit. Schmidt says that’s important because staffing isn’t just “a numbers game.”

“We need to take into consideration other workplace variables that affect the staffing levels for individual nursing units,” she said. “Some units are very old. They have their supply rooms on the very end of the nursing unit. So the nurses are running back and forth to get supplies.”

But not everyone is on board with the idea of a committee with a majority of nurses as members calling the shots for staffing. New Jersey hospital officials and some nurses in management feel a state mandate like this would impair a hospital’s ability to respond to changing patient needs; and there are concerns about the cost of hiring more staff with New Jersey’s nurse labor pool already somewhat shallow.

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