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The Villages
Friday, October 15, 2021

New COO takes over at The Villages hospital as ransomware attack freezes computers

Heather Bentley LongA new chief operating officer started her job Tuesday as a ransomware attack crippled computers at UF Health-The Villages Hospital.

Heather Bentley Long, M.S.N., was named chief operating officer for University of Florida Health Central Florida, effective June 1. She will oversee the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of the division’s two acute care facilities — UF Health Leesburg Hospital and UF Health The Villages Hospital.

Both hospitals have been forced to operate by pen and paper thanks to a ransomware attack which has shut down the computer system. Some staffers inside the hospitals have described it as returning to the “stone age.” However, medical staff have reportedly pushed on and continue to deliver the best possible medical care. Some have referred to patient charting as “old school.”

The attack apparently began Monday night.

The attackers are reportedly demanding a $5 million ransom, although UF Health has not confirmed that number and remains tight lipped on the situation.

The malware attack has locked up the hospitals’ cash registers which means the cafeterias cannot operate. One medical staffer said, “It really stinks.” Medical staffers have already had a tough year due to all of the complications from COVID-19.

Hospitals have become a prime target for ransomware because of the immediate and dramatic impact of losing access to systems and data. Cybercriminals believe that hospitals will generally pay a ransom because of the impact to patient care and the potential to cause death or serious injury, according to the Center for Internet Security.

The FBI is the lead agency in the U.S. Federal Government for investigating cyberattacks and intrusions and are frequently called upon by organizations to provide guidance and conduct a criminal investigation. Along with the FBI, the Secret Service also frequently becomes involved, as does the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA).

Heather Bentley Long came from AdventHealth

The new hospital COO earned a master of science in nursing from Nova Southeastern University and a bachelor of arts in health care administration from Webster University. Prior to joining UF Health, she served in a number of executive leadership positions with Altamonte Springs–based AdventHealth, including her most recent post as system senior vice president, clinical services and chief nursing officer, acute care services for the Central Florida–South Region. Long is a member of the American College of Healthcare Executives and was a nominee for Modern Healthcare’s Top 25 Women in Healthcare Award in 2019.  

“I am thrilled that Long has made the choice to join the UF Health family in this key position,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. 

“Her extensive background in clinical operations will be key to UF Health Central Florida’s future success as we continue to expand our service offerings to meet the needs of the residents of this vibrant and rapidly expanding region.”  

In her role, Long will oversee the day-to-day administrative and operational functions of the division’s two acute care facilities — UF Health Leesburg Hospital and UF Health The Villages Hospital. She will also provide direct management oversight for all quality improvement initiatives in partnership with the division’s chief medical officer, with a major focus on developing cost effective and integrated clinical programs.  

Additionally, Long will develop and foster effective collaboration between clinical departments, medical staff leadership and other affiliated services to ensure an integrated approach to service delivery and achieving the organization’s operational goals and objectives.

“It is imperative that we optimize operational efficiencies while improving the overall care we provide to our patients, particularly during these challenging times in the health care industry,” said Ed Jimenez, CEO of UF Health Shands.   


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