HOUSTON - After an October ransomware attack that affected operations at St. Luke's Health hospitals, in Houston, systems have been resolved, but some staff members now complain the attack has hit their paychecks.
The attack affected operations at more than 130 hospitals across the country, run by CommonSpirit Health.
At St. Luke's, an 'internal disaster' was declared that allowed emergency traffic to be diverted away, while vital digital patient records were offline, forcing caregivers to rely on paper documentation that was unfamiliar, slow, and sometimes incomplete.
During those weeks, when an online payroll system was also affected, staff hours were tallied manually. Now the hospital has told some they were overpaid.
'Mary' is a name we're using for a St. Luke's nurse who is sharing her experience with us.
"This is their mistake, not ours," she said. "We submitted the forms we were supposed to submit, and they did not do right by us."
She says hours and pay rates change week-to-week, depending on different duties and times. In recent weeks, the hospital has informed staff, that it thinks was overpaid by as much as $7,000, and that it will take the money back from future checks by the end of the year.
'Mary' says requests for details and documentation have been met with silence.
"We would agree to pay back the money, if we owe money, but show us what we owe and give us more time that's not during the holidays," she said.
In a statement, CommonSpirit Health said:
"Our people are our top priority, and we regret the stress and frustration that the payroll system disruption has caused. We are working with our employees to answer questions, address payment discrepancies, and provide financial and other assistance to those who may need it. We are committed to ensuring our employees are paid accurately and will continue to work with them directly to resolve any concerns. We are grateful for the commitment, grace, and professionalism our staff have demonstrated during this challenging time."
Staff may be out of luck, beyond that, as Texas law does not prevent employers from retrieving any overpayments, whenever they want. Some observers believe some goodwill could take some of the sting out of it.
"I would want to go to the employee and say, 'we made a mistake, and here's how we made the mistake because we need to get that money back'," explained FOX 26 Senior Legal Analyst Chris Tritico, "That way, everybody's on the same page."
'Mary' says, initially, some staff members received paychecks as low as $100, before the money was returned while a different solution is considered.
While some have, reportedly, sought legal guidance, Tritico believes it could be a difficult battle and that most should have recognized if there was extra money in their paychecks, and been prepared to give it back.