Dallas Hospital Explains Mishandling of Ebola

EbolaThe Dallas hospital that misdiagnosed a case of Ebola has apologized and is trying to understand its own mistakes. The Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital's chief clinic officer wrote a statement explaining what happened to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee's Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations:

"Unfortunately, in our initial treatment of Mr. Duncan, despite our best intentions and a highly skilled medical team, we made mistakes. We did not correctly diagnose his symptoms as those of Ebola. We are deeply sorry."

Later in the statement, the hospital explains the nurse's situation:

"Also, in our effort to communicate to the public quickly and transparently, we inadvertently provided some information that was inaccurate and had to be corrected. No doubt that was unsettling to a community that was already concerned and confused, and we have learned from that experience as well.

"Last weekend, nurse Nina Pham, a member of our hospital family who courageously cared for Mr. Duncan, was also diagnosed with Ebola. Our team is doing everything possible to help her win the fight, and on Tuesday her condition was upgraded to "good," so we are all very hopeful. I can tell you that the prayers of the entire Texas Health system are with her. Yesterday, we identified a second caregiver with EVD. I can also tell you that our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family as well.

"A lot is being said about what may or may not have occurred to cause Ms. Pham to contract Ebola. She is known as an extremely skilled nurse, and she was using full protective measures under the CDC protocols, so we don't yet know precisely how or when she was infected. But it's clear there was an exposure somewhere, sometime. We are poring over records and observations, and doing all we can to find the answers."

The rest of the statement includes a timeline of events and lessons learned.

To help with its communications and improve its image, the hospital has hired PR firm Burson-Marstellar. A pointed Reuters report criticizes executive compensation and quality failures in the system. Although Burson is encouraging more openness from the hospital staff, the Reuters reporter calls for a closer look at the business. 

Image source.

Discussion Starters:

  • If you were consulting with the Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital, what advice would you give them? Consider communication strategies and other business practices.
  • Analyze the organization, content, and tone of the hospital's statement. What business writing principles does the statement follow and skip?
  • Read the Reuters article. Which arguments are most compelling?