Social media 'lies' scaring patients away from new $600M hospital, officials say

A New York health system held a press conference to address what it called "rumors, misinformation and lies" being spread on social media that is scaring away patients, the Utica (N.Y.) Observer-Dispatch reported.

Officials from Utica, N.Y.-based Mohawk Valley Health System said disgruntled employees and opponents of its new hospital are propagating the falsehoods to destroy the organization's reputation, according to the Nov. 13 story.

"You, you are the ones responsible for harming our community," health system board member Norman Siegel said at the Nov. 12 press conference covered by the newspaper. "You, you are the ones who've done nothing to advance healthcare and improve our community."

Mohawk Valley opened the new $600 million Wynn Hospital in downtown Utica on Oct. 29. But after what they deemed untruthful social media posts about surgery transfers and safety procedures, hospital officials said local residents have been afraid to come there for care, the news outlet reported. "Tune out this idle chatter and ugly rumor-mongering," Mr. Siegel said at the press conference. "You have always been able to rely on us."

Hospital officials acknowledged that some of the online chatter stems from a hitch in its air-handling system that caused surgeries to be delayed or diverted to other hospitals. But those issues have been resolved, according to the story. "We are fully open for business," Mohawk Valley President and CEO Darlene Stromstad told the press.

Officials refuted the rumors one by one, denying, for instance, that there was any problem with air quality — it was air pressure, they said — and that the hospital had mold, the Observer-Dispatch reported. They also said stairwells are locked for safety reasons but unlock automatically in case of a fire. "I sure hope the fire call at the hospital is just a drill, since everything I'm reading says the stairs are all locked," a member of the group #NoHospitalDowntown wrote Nov. 13 on Facebook. Hospital staffers have responded to the negative online messages with positive posts expressing excitement for the new facility.

The hospital leaders did, however, cop to one other problem, according to the newspaper. "People were angry the first night," Ms. Stromstad said, "because not every television worked."

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