Cyberattack Strikes Pandemic-Besigned Navajo Nation Hospital

February 22, 2021

A pandemic-besieged hospital on the edge of the Navajo Nation says it has been the focus of a cyberattack.

The nonprofit operator of Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital in Gallup issued a brief statement acknowledging “unauthorized activity” on its computer network.

Hospital spokeswoman Ina Burmeister says hospital operators have hired private investigators and taken other undisclosed measures to prevent further unauthorized activity.

The scope and consequences of the intrusion were unclear.

Former hospital employee Cassandra Martinez says she sought emergency services at the hospital on Feb. 7 and that hospital personnel were unable to access her online records.

A wave of digital assaults has been taking U.S. health care providers hostage as they contend with the COVID-19 pandemic.

In September 2020, a ransomware attack paralyzed a chain of more than 250 U.S. hospitals and clinics, with related outages that delayed emergency room care.

Burmeister declined to comment on possible responses by law enforcement.

“We will fully comply with our legal obligations, including contacting any impacted individuals, as appropriate,” the hospital said in a statement.

Rehoboth McKinley Christian Hospital and an adjacent hospital run by Indian Health Service have been wrestling with stubbornly high coronavirus infection rates in a city that serves as a trading post for remote areas Navajo Nation.

In McKinley County, which encompasses Gallup, there has been roughly one infection confirmed for every four residents since the outset of the pandemic. The virus death rate is above six per 1,000 residents.

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