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Commonwealth Health Reacts to Data Breach

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If you received treatment from a medical facility affiliated with Community Health Systems, you may have had your personal information stolen.

Community Health Systems notified the government that its computer network was hacked on Monday.

Community Health Systems runs several hospitals and clinics in our area, some of them under the name Commonwealth Health, including Regional Hospital of Scranton and Moses Taylor Hospital in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre General, Berwick Hospital, Tyler Memorial Hospital near Tunkhannock, and First Hospital in Kingston.

In a statement, Commonwealth Health said none of its hospitals was affected by this computer breach, but several of its clinics and offices were.

Of the four and half million patients who had their personal information stolen from Community Health Systems computers, hospital patients in Northeastern Pennsylvania are not among them.

But Commonwealth Health officials said patients who visited several of its clinics may have had their information hacked.

The cyber attacks happened in April and June, but Community Health Systems just formally told the federal government about the scope of the breach.

"I thought they had better security systems than that. I really did. That's unbelievable. I mean it, unbelievable," said Jacqueline Hannibal of Scranton.

According to the Securities and Exchange Commission, doctors have started telling affected patients the news. For patients in Scranton including Jacqueline Hannibal, no news is good news. But she said she will be watching her mail and her bank statement.

The same goes for Samantha Smith, who visits Moses Taylor Hospital each week for physical therapy.

"It makes you think on a lot of stuff. It makes you wonder. It makes you think that not even the hospitals are safe to go to now. Or having a bank account or anything, because you don't know who is going to get your information," Smith said.

According to Community Health Systems, the stolen information does not include patients' medical records, only personal information, but that could mean your Social Security number, phone number, or address.

"I wouldn't change hospitals because they've got excellent care there. I'll still go to the hospital. I'll just be more cautious about who I give my information to," said Hannibal.

Newswatch 16 reached out to officials with Community Health Systems, but haven't heard back. Officials with the health care system they own, Commonwealth Health, said patients who have visited one of several clinics in Scranton, Wilkes-Barre, or Berwick may be affected.

Patients who had their information stolen will be receiving a letter from their physician.

A toll-free number has been set up to answer patients’ questions at 1-855-205-6951.

The following statement was released by Commonwealth Health regarding the data breach:

"The attack does not involve Commonwealth Health-affiliated hospital-specific data, Physicians Health Alliance, Great Valley Cardiology or InterMountain Medical Group practices.

Limited personal identification data belonging to some patients who were seen at the Berwick Medical Professionals practices, Wilkes-Barre Academic Medicine Clinic, Wyoming Valley Surgical Associates, Wilkes-Barre Neurosurgical Associates, Scranton Clinic Company and Wilkes-Barre Clinic Company over the past five years was transferred out of our organization in a criminal cyber attack by a foreign-based intruder. The transferred information did not include any medical information or credit card information, but it did include names, addresses, birthdates, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers.

Patients who have been affected will receive a letter from their physician’s office. A toll-free number (1-855-205-6951) has been set up to answer patients’ questions.

We take very seriously the security and confidentiality of private patient information and we sincerely regret any concern or inconvenience this event may cause our patients. Though we have no reason to believe that this data would ever be used, all affected patients are being notified by letter and offered free identity theft protection.

Our organization believes the intruder was a foreign-based group out of China that was likely looking for intellectual property. The intruder used highly sophisticated methods to bypass security systems. The intruder has been eradicated and applications have been deployed to protect against future attacks. We are working with federal law enforcement authorities in their investigation and will support prosecution of those responsible for this attack."

Renita Fennick | Director of Communications | Commonwealth Health