‘Why wasn’t there a back-up plan?’: After One Brooklyn Health cyber attack, community leaders demand answers

one brooklyn health staffers during cyber attack press conference
Brookdale Hospital staffers attend a Dec. 15 press conference outside the facility regarding a November cyber attack against One Brooklyn Health. The hack has caused chaos throughout the healthcare system’s three hospitals.
Photo by Lloyd Mitchell

Nearly a month after a cyber attack left the One Brooklyn Health system compromised, elected officials and medical professionals gathered outside of Brookdale Hospital Medical Center to call for additional resources — and to get the healthcare system’s three hospitals back online.

“I am asking for resources and answers into this cyber attack that has crippled everything from patient health, health records to the day-to-day operations of Brookdale Hospital,” said East New York advocate and former political candidate Chris Banks during a Dec. 15 press conference outside the Brownsville hospital.

One Brooklyn Health – which includes Brookdale, Interfaith Medical Center, and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center — was hit by the attack in late November, the New York Times reported. The attack shut down systems through which providers check patient charts and access medical records, and the healthcare system is still working to get everything back to full working order. 

Brookdale Hospital Executive Sandra Scott said Thursday that everyone from doctors to nurses and those working behind the scenes have had to pivot since the cyberattack, which affected thousands of computers.

one brooklyn health executive speaks at cyber attack conference
Brookdale Hospital Executive Sandra Scott addresses the crowd. Lloyd Mitchell

“We have a mix of old and new doctors along with nurses adapting and overcoming this situation,” she told a crowd outside of Brookdale.

All patient information is backed up, Scott said, but the attack has caused chaos across the healthcare system.

“We were forced to handwrite some 6,000 prescriptions,” she said, unsure of when the issue might be resolved.

Scott joined Banks and Reverend Kevin McCall at the presser, where the trio called for additional help — and answers as to when all three hospitals will be fully back online.

McCall, founder of the Brownsville civil rights advocacy group Crisis Action Center, added that he’d like to know how something like this could happen to one of Kings County’s most crucial healthcare conglomerates.

“Why wasn’t there a back-up plan in place from the very beginning of this cyber attack?” he asked, adding that the hackers are reportedly seeking $5 million in ransom.

kevin mccall speaks at one brooklyn health
Rev. Kevin McCall helped organize Thursday’s press conference, as hospital staff still struggles after the attack. Lloyd Mitchell

In a note to medical staffers confirming the hack, One Brooklyn Health CEO Laray Brown said the healthcare system is “in contact with relevant federal, state and local agencies and regulators as it pertains to this incident,” the New York Post reported.

The New York State Department of Health is also aware of the cyber attack and is working to investigate.

Banks, McCall and Scott said the Federal Bureau of Investigation and state officials like Governor Kathy Hochul and Attorney General Letitia James are also aware of and actively looking to the matter, but, until there are answers, the three vowed to keep speaking out on behalf of staff and patients — many of whom are among the most low-income in the city.

In a statement to Brooklyn Paper, Scott said, progress has been made.

“One Brooklyn Health (OBH) which includes Brookdale Hospital Medical Center, Interfaith Medical Center, and Kingsbrook Jewish Medical Center has made considerable progress in recovering from a cybersecurity incident which occurred in late November. OBH is using established downtime procedures to provide safe care for our communities,” she said. “With the support of third-party advisors, including industry-leading cybersecurity specialists, several clinical applications are now operational. On the first day that our retail pharmacy was back online, we filled 6000 electronic prescriptions. We have also restored access to over 80% of desktop computers for staff.

Scott also thanked the community for its support.

“We appreciate the support of our elected officials, our patients, partners, and communities. We continue to be in regular communication with our state regulators,” she told Brooklyn Paper. “We are also grateful to our employees for continuing to care for our patients during this challenging time. Nothing is more important to us than the health and safety of our community.”