How 3 hospitals navigated delicate issues in the press

When local news sources investigate and report on issues involving the hospital, marketing and public relations directors are often called on to respond.

Here is how three marketing directors responded to recent sensitive stories in the local news.

Illinois Valley Community Hospital (Peru)
The Rockford Register Star recently reported the experiences of Kaitlyn West, the first person in Marshall County, Ill., to be diagnosed with COVID-19. She was taken to the Illinois Valley Community Hospital's emergency room after experiencing symptoms in March. Although she recovered physically from the virus, Ms. West, who is uninsured, told the Register Star that she had nearly $40,000 in hospital bills, which was reduced to $8,000.

Community relations and marketing director for IVCH issued this statement to the paper: "IVCH understands the challenges the pandemic has created for so many in our community. We are committed to providing more flexibility as we work with patients to resolve outstanding bills. The way bills for COVID care are processed has changed as the pandemic has evolved and more aid becomes available. We encourage any patients with COVID-related bills to reach out to us. Our patient financial services department is standing by with resources and support."

Grandview Medical Center (Birmingham)
In July 29 coverage, a local ABC News affiliate in Birmingham reported about Alabama's dwindling ICU beds. At that point, for three days the state had reported fewer than 200 ICU beds available and reached out to local hospitals to respond.

Leisha Harris, marketing director for Grandview Medical Center, reported the hospital has filled its ICU and issued said: "As cases of COVID-19 and patients requiring hospital care have risen in our community, our critical care capacity, at times, has been fully utilized. We continually monitor our census and bed availability because it can change at any time as patients are admitted or discharged."

Two other hospitals in the area took a different approach, having other organizational leaders respond. UAB division of infectious diseases director Jeanne Marazzo, MD, responded by saying the situation was "getting very serious" and noting that the health system's COVID-19 dedicated ICU was full, although the system could expand capacity.

St. Vincent had a clinical executive respond as well; CNO and COO Chris Moore said the health system's ICU were at 90 percent capacity, 40 percent being COVID-19 patients, and that it would continue to adapt its readiness plan as the pandemic spread.

United Hospital (St. Paul, Minn.)
The Star Tribune reported Aug. 10 about issues with employee safety during the pandemic. The hospital fired multiple nurses over safety concerns, including a nurse that failed to view an online training video at the hospital in April. Another emergency department nurse was fired in May after violating the policy against wearing scrubs that it had to launder.

The hospital declined to comment on the particular situations noted in the article and a statement from the system read: "Our preference is always that education and coaching efforts will be successful. But we cannot appropriately retain employees who willfully and repeatedly choose to violate hospital policies designed to protect our patients and staff. Due to ongoing litigation, we won’t be commenting further at this time."

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