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HEALTH

Hospital in south west France hit by cyber-attack demanding $50,000 ransom

A hospital in southwest France has seen some of its IT systems paralysed by a "ransomware" cyberattack, its management said on Tuesday, the third such incident in the last month.

Hospital in south west France hit by cyber-attack demanding $50,000 ransom
Hospital staff were unable to access patient records after the cyberattack. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP

The 320-bed facility in Oloron-Sainte-Marie near the Pyrenees mountains was hit by the attack on Monday, with screens displaying a demand in English for $50,000 in Bitcoin.

Hospital workers have had to revert to working with pens and paper, since digital patient records are not available.

The management system, used to monitor medicine stocks and other supplies, has also been affected at a time when the hospital is taking part in vaccination efforts against Covid-19.

“We might get our systems back in 48 hours or in three months,” hospital director Frederic Lecenne told local newspaper La Republique des Pyrenees.

He said personnel had disconnected some computers from the internet and the hospital’s network to try to limit the spread of the ransomware.

In February, hospitals in Dax in southwest France and in Villefranche-sur-Saône in the southeastern Rhone region were subjected to ransomware attacks, while in 2019 a hospital in northern Rouen was also hit.

“Ransomware” attacks see criminals infiltrate and paralyse a target’s IT systems, then demand payments in order to restore them.

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HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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