Renown CEO defends COVID-19 care site after Trump tweet claims it's 'fake'

Reno, Nev.-based Renown Health's CEO is speaking out against a tweet shared by President Donald Trump that falsely claims Renown's alternative COVID-19 unit is "fake."

In mid-November, Renown's medical centers in Reno began experiencing inpatient hospital capacity challenges due to COVID-19. To address this issue, Renown Regional Medical Center opened an alternative care site Nov. 12 in one of its parking structures. The site is intended for hospitalized patients who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 who are stable or improving.

On Dec. 1, President Trump shared a post that falsely stated Renown's alternative care site is a "fake hospital" and is not treating any patients. Along with the shared post, President Trump wrote: "Fake election results in Nevada, also!" As of Dec. 1, Renown was caring for 41 patients at its alternative care site, according to a hospital spokesperson. Its hospitals were treating 200 COVID-19 patients, with 34 in the intensive care unit and 19 on ventilators. 

The inaccurate tweet was paired with an image shared by Jacob Keeperman, MD, an executive medical director with Renown. In the image, he is standing in a parking structure where the care site is housed. Equipment in the background of the picture is covered in clear bags, and no patients are pictured. Photos cannot be taken of patients for privacy reasons. Dr. Keeperman originally tweeted the photo with a message in support of healthcare workers at Renown.

In an interview with Becker's Hospital Review, Anthony Slonim, MD, CEO of Renown, characterized the president's post as "irresponsible" and said that it "detracts from the hard work people are doing." 

"The parking garage structure is equipped to handle 1,400 patients. I hope I don't need it! As a public health professional, I know the responsibility I have for prevention, and screening, and preparation is not to wait until I need it," he said. "It's to anticipate. That's called planning. We're supposed to do that as leaders. If people want to throw criticism at me for overbuilding [for a potential surge], that's OK. I'll take the criticism."

Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak supported Renown in a Dec. 1 statement. Mr. Sisolak said the "misleading rhetoric on COVID-19 is dangerous and reckless, and today's implication that Renown's alternate care site is a 'fake hospital' is among the worst examples we've seen."

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