The three hospitals of the DCH Health System are back to normal operations after a ransomware cyberattack forced them to divert all but the most critical cases away to other facilities last week.

Paul Betz, the Chief Operating Officer of the DCH Health System, said Thursday afternoon that hospital administration had made the difficult but necessary decision to pay the ransom demanded by the criminal hackers who disabled all computer systems in their facilities in Tuscaloosa, Northport and Fayette.

"We had to gain access to our systems quickly and gain access to the information that was blocked," Betz said.

He declined to specify the size of the ransom paid the cyberattackers, but said the DCH Health System does have insurance against such attacks and that when the final cost of the attack is calculated, administrators will be glad those policies were in place.

Not all functionality and systems have been restored, but enough is back online for administrators to lift the "diversion" status they placed on the DCH Health System last week.

"At this time all hospital services are open," Betz said Thursday. "Essential electronic systems related to patient care have been restored, allowing DCH to begin receiving patients again. Meanwhile, out IT department continues to restore certain nonessential functions such as email and they are working to restore systems to their full speed and functionality."

The FBI and Secret Service are investigating the attack and hospital staff are performing a comprehensive analysis of what happened and how to prevent it, Betz said.

Betz emphasized how proud he was of the DCH staff who kept hand-written logs and charts while cyber systems were offline, and apologized to the community and to DCH employees for the disruption the attack brought on.

"We apologize for the frustration and inconvenience this incident has caused, especially to our patients and dedicated staff," Betz said. "DCH greatly appreciates everyone's continued patience and support."

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