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Wait times at Saint Francis swell; Hillcrest takes emergency services off divert

Saint Francis Hospital
Shane Bevel
Saint Francis Hospital

Saint Francis Health System says it’s seeing many more patients because of a ransomware attack affecting other medical providers in the Tulsa area, including Hillcrest Medical Center and its affiliates.

Saint Francis Hospital President Doug Williams said wait times at emergency rooms have increased to six hours from a more typical one to three hours. Williams said people should not shy away from seeking care, though

“If you’re really sick, we will prioritize you, but you may be placed in a hall. It’s just triaging and doing things a little different than people who’ve experienced ER care before are used to,” said Williams.

Williams said cyber attacks like the one against Hillcrest’s parent company, Ardent Health Services, are much on the mind of medical workers.

“In healthcare, if you pick up any healthcare journal, this is what people are talking about. Healthcare is a major target for some reason. I believe it could happen to any of us on any given day,” said Williams.

Around the time Williams was making his comments, Hillcrest announced as of 4 p.m. it would no longer be diverting emergency patients. A statement from Hillcrest HealthCare System CEO Kevin Gross says the last hospital in the network to come off divert was its facility in south Tulsa.

“This continues to be a rapidly changing situation, and we are grateful to once again accept emergency room patients by ambulance while continuing to provide the emergency care that we are known for throughout the community,” reads the statement.

When wait times may return to normal is unclear.

So far, not much information is available on the details of the Thanksgiving cyber attack typically designed to collect a steep ransom in exchange for continued functionality. The perpetrators are unknown, and a spokeswoman for Hillcrest said she couldn’t comment on whether the company paid any sum of money.

Before joining Public Radio Tulsa, Elizabeth Caldwell was a freelance reporter and a teacher. She holds a master's from Hollins University. Her audio work has appeared at KCRW, CBC's The World This Weekend, and The Missouri Review. She is a south Florida native.