Since we first reported the story on Sunday about a Nova Scotia man who was fatally injured in a skiing accident at Sugarloaf Ski Resort in Maine last week, like me, many of you have been waiting to hear the other side of the story. Some key information has been missing and it's possible some of those answers may come today.
So far, we only know the details provided by David Morse's widow Dana, a nurse practitioner, who says paramedics left her on the side of the road when she asked to be allowed in the patient compartment for what she believed were her husband's dying moments. In addition, Dana Morse has strongly criticized the care provided by the ambulance crew.
Franklin Memorial Hospital in Farmington, Maine, which runs Northstar Ambulance service, indicated it did not know about Dana Morse's complaint when contacted by the Chronicle Herald last weekend. Since then, the hospital has not been doing itself any favors by not releasing any information about the incident.
While determining the level and quality of care provided to the patient may take some time, it seems the key point of the story that has made it newsworthy, whether Dana Morse was abandoned by the side of the road, should be an easy one to figure out, along with any explanation for those actions.
Rather than provide those answers in a timely fashion, the hospital and ambulance service have stretched this reputation issue into a whole week of news stories. OnlineSentinel.com reports the wait for the rest of the story may end today after Jill Gray, community relations manager for Franklin Memorial Hospital, indicated there could be a statement released about the internal review.
Among the stories this week are the one above from NECN where the reporter talked by phone to Dana Morse's sister.
Bangor Daily News has done at least two stories. In the first, Dana Morse said the details of what happened are even worse than what she shared with the Chronicle Herald:
Dana Morse told the Bangor Daily News on Tuesday she believes an investigation into the handling of her husband’s case will reveal it was even worse than depicted in The Chronicle Herald story, which she said was otherwise “completely accurate.”
“I will file a formal complaint to ensure the details are available for their investigation, as the printed details in The Chronicle Herald are not even touching the surface,” she wrote to the BDN in an email, adding, “I will not provide further comments [as] my focus is my boys.”
In the second story, Bangor Daily News reporter Seth Koenig got in touch with my friend Curt Varone, who writes FireLawBlog.com:
"We’ve got to get down to the facts about what happened,” Varone told the BDN in a Wednesday evening telephone interview. “Did the transporting EMS unit en route to a hospital leave a patient’s family member by the side of the road? If that did happen, what were the grounds? As a fire service leader, I’m struggling to come up with grounds to justify that. I’m not saying they didn’t have grounds, but we’d need to know what those grounds were.”
Varone said before the public knows what the hospital’s internal review finds, “it’s not helpful to speculate.” But he said it will be important for the hospital to release its findings openly, a step medical facilities are not often required to take.
“This is something that has captured the public’s attention, and the hospital, just like any other entity, has an obligation to tell the public, ‘This is what happened — we did an investigation and, you might not like what happened, but here are the results,’” Varone said.
Excellent points, as always, by Curt. In fact, a good way to stop that speculating would have been for the hospital to provide the key facts well before now. If it is bad news for the hospital and the ambulance service, delaying the inevitable is just making it worse. If the hospital has a defensible position, they have lost a lot of opportunities to share it and possibly prevent further erosion of the ambulance service's reputation.
Those who think that just by saying "it's under investigation", or the old standby, "we can't talk because it's a personnel matter", are enough to quiet things down and give you time, can just look at this story to see what really happens. Not talking usually does little to solve a serious image problem like this one.
In addition, Curt made a good point to the Bangor Daily News, that echoes something I said in the comments section following our original post last weekend:
“How could a couple of medics have gone through this ordeal — especially if it happened the way the widow said it happened — and not report it to their supervisors?”
An early warning system, especially with bad news traveling at the speed of light in the digital age, is crucial to dealing with reputation issues. When those in charge and those responsible for addressing the press and the public have to find out the potentially bad news first from a reporter, responding properly and promptly will be even more difficult.
Stuff happens. Make sure your people know that keeping it a secret will always make things much worse.
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Also on STATter911 …
- Wife who asked to be beside her dying husband in ambulance says crew left her on side of road. Questions about care after Maine skiing accident. – January 15, 2012
- Maine’s Franklin Hospital/Northstar Ambulance issues a non-statement about dying man’s wife claim she was left on side of road. Another lesson in reputation mismanagement. – January 20, 2012
- Raw video: House fire in Bangor, NY. – February 26, 2013
- Controversy all around, DC’s Mayor says he has confidence in Fire Chief Ellerbe. Deputy Mayor wants to know why 10 ambulances were out of service when cop needed help. – March 7, 2013
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