HAMMOND, Ind. (STMW) — The Methodist Hospitals claims in a federal lawsuit that the company it hired in 2006 to help steer it out of a financial mess instead directed it to a new computer system that wasted $16.6 million.

The computer system opened up almost half of Methodist’s computers to a virus attack and messed up patient information to the point that doctors and nurses had to abandon the system altogether, according to the lawsuit filed Wednesday in the U.S. District Court in Hammond.

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The lawsuit names as defendants FTI Cambio, a Tennessee company, and HealthNET and Medical Information Technology Inc., both based in Massachusetts.

According to the suit, Methodist was forced to hire an advisory firm in 2006 because its financial situation was dire and the company wasn’t meeting requirements of bonds it had taken out.

The hospital system, which operates hospitals in Gary and Merrillville, hired Cambio to look into every aspect of the company. Part of that was information technology and Cambio hired HealthNET to look at Epic Software, the system the hospital was installing at the time.

The two finally recommended that Methodist drop Epic, even though it had already spent $26 million on it, because they said another system, Meditech, would allow for more cost savings overall.

However, Methodist now says HealthNET and Cambio lied about the costs, saying it would cost another $25 million to finish installing Epic when it would really have cost $11 million.

Methodist says the two companies and Medical Information Technology, which made Meditech, lied about what the hospital would have to do to install Meditech, the lawsuit says. Methodist was told it wouldn’t have to customize the software, which adds on to the cost, and that it wouldn’t affect the hospitals’ security and virus protection software.

Instead, the companies told Methodist part-way through the Meditech installation the hospital needed to lower its security and anti-virus protection. Methodist says in the lawsuit this left the company’s computers open to attack and 40 percent of them got infected with the Conflicker virus because of it. The system also became too burdened to use without customization, according to the lawsuit.

Methodist abandoned the new system in early 2009, before it was fully installed, after employees discovered updates to patient information were being lost and other problems. Employees resorted to charting patient records on paper, the lawsuit says.

A release from Methodist said the hospital does not comment on ongoing litigation. Representatives for Cambio, HealthNET and Medical Information Technology could not be reached for comment.

Methodist is seeking to have its contract with Medical Information Technology rescinded, plus $16 million in damages and additional relief.

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