Health system responds to social media uproar over patient

A Florida health system CEO responded to what he called a "distorted story" being spread on social media over his organization's treatment of a patient.

George Mikitarian, president and CEO of Titusville, Fla.-based Parrish Healthcare, admitted in the June 5 open letter that his health system mistakenly brought an emergency department patient to the wrong location but denied the event's categorization as "homeless neglect."

A local pastor shared a post that went viral on Facebook describing how the health system had a cab drop off an "extremely weak" patient in a wheelchair wearing a soiled shirt and no pants at an area of a park where homeless people are not allowed, Talk of Titusville reported June 5. Local volunteers later met the man at the park and contacted a state agency.

"The social post, unfortunately, but all too common, does not accurately portray the whole story. It is deeply disheartening to see the community for whom we dedicate ourselves to serving, be so hateful," Mr. Mikitarian wrote. "I do not blame the poster. However, I do blame those who criticize before they understand and learn. Facts matter. Not opinions piled on top of more opinions. All this accomplishes is the perpetuation of misinformation and hatefulness. It does nothing to contribute to a solution."

While the health system is bound by "privacy rules" that prevent it from countering "many of the inaccurate and false accounts" of the patient's June 3 visit to Parrish Medical Center, Mr. Mikitarian wrote, the organization received permission from the man to share some details. The man has "long-term issues" caused by his "lifestyle choices" and admitted he uses the emergency department for "room and board," Mr. Mikitarian wrote. Still, the man has refused the health system's offers for help, including clothes, rehab services and primary care.

Mr. Mikitarian was particularly perturbed by a social media comment criticizing the health system employees' fundraising efforts, which "in reality," he said, "support programs and services in our community to address the very issues that the post was criticizing." "So, rather than say 'thank you' we get vitriol (hostility)," he wrote.

"I commend the caring and compassion demonstrated by our more than 900 [employees] who come to work every day and give of their hearts and souls (and their own money) to the people in their care," he added. "They go above and beyond for patients and the community. They are the ones who are hurt by the hatefulness being generated by this distorted story of 'homeless neglect.' Nothing could be further from the truth."

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