NBC 7 Responds

Frustrated patients say Palomar Health Medical Group ‘dead in the water' amid downed systems

It has now been five weeks since Palomar Health Medical Group was hit with cybersecurity issues that forced it to take its systems offline

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Brigitte Carlson carefully paid attention to her son’s baseball practice while she remained frustrated at how Palomar Health Medical Group turned her away when she showed up to her doctor’s appointment at a women’s clinic in Escondido

“There was a second receptionist at the desk who said, ‘I understand because we’re not providing proper patient care,’ and I said, 'You’re right. You’re not. You’re absolutely not,'" Carlson said.

Palomar Health District was not impacted in any way during this cybersecurity incident. It’s only Palomar Health Medical Group.

She sent a letter to the medical group’s chief legal officer telling him it must do a better job in providing patients the care they need, regardless of what may be happening with its cybersecurity. She said she wrote the letter not just on her behalf.

“I think a lot of women are working, and they have kids, and they don’t have time to be driving back and forth to get an appointment and then to have it canceled,” she told NBC 7.

Meanwhile, Thomas Weir described the headache it has been for him and his wife driving 35 miles each way from Warner Springs to get their medical needs met. He said changing doctors seems to be impossible as his wife recently found out.

He told NBC 7 she requested her health records because she was in the process of changing doctors but was faced with some hardship.

“'We can’t do that. We can’t give you your records.' 'Why not?' 'Because they’re all computerized,'" Weir said, describing his wife’s experience.

In an email to Palomar Health Medical Group, NBC 7 asked, among other things, how much longer it expected its systems to be down and if patients can retrieve their medical records at this time. NBC 7 also shared the letter sent by Carlson to its chief legal officer and the only reply the station received was an email saying: “We do not have any updates.”

In statements to NBC 7 Responds more than a month ago, the medical group said third-party specialists were dealing with suspicious activity on its computer system and it remains committed to the care of its patients as it diligently works to resolve the issue. Patients said they haven’t received much more than that ever since.

“You have to be responsive to, you know, your customer, your client, your patient and, you know, in the medical profession especially,” Carlson said.

She said the lack of communication just adds to her frustration and keeps her from fully enjoying a simple baseball practice. 

A patient sent NBC 7 Responds a letter he received from Palomar Medical Health Group on May 21, 2024, saying it continues providing lab results, radiology reports, referrals to specialists and patient messages via secure inbound fax. It also says that doctors do have limited access to medical records by using temporary programs. 

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