Friday, December 10, 2010

Hear ye, Hear ye, Memorial spends $95,000 on flak help

Posted By on Fri, Dec 10, 2010 at 3:50 PM

City-owned Memorial Health System is on the offensive with its latest expenditure for public relations.

The PR department there issued this un-bylined notice in an attempt to preempt less flattering ways of reporting the issue.

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Memorial spends $95,000 on PR consultants. This is the headline we expect we’ll see in the Gazette, so we figured we’d save the newspaper a step and just write it ourselves.

The story will come after today’s front-page splash about our two full-page ads ($16,500), and another story on a $28,000 telephone survey.

In the latest installment, I predict the usual critics (I won’t name names) will sound off on us, and we will be accused of improperly using taxpayer money. This is an inaccurate accusation, by the way, since we are not supported by taxpayers. Nevertheless, there’s a good chance this story will go on page one.

So, let’s just cut to the chase.

Memorial expects to spend somewhere between $75,000-$95,000 on SE2, a communications firm, to help us with our internal and external communications from August to January.

Is it a lot of money? Of course.

Should we make sure that patients, physicians, staff and the community understand the single-most important issue facing Memorial in seven decades? We think so.

The fact is, Memorial’s ownership is one of the least understood, most complex topics to ever enter the local public policy arena. Confusion abounds, and this confusion is likely to be exploited by out-of-town, big-money interests. There are huge implications to our patients, physicians, staff and community.

All of this, and the fate of this issue rests entirely in the court of public opinion.

Is it fair to expect us to be quiet, even as people turn to us for our knowledge and our perspective?

If a patient comes to a physician with cancer, does the doctor give the patient a stack of medical textbooks and say, “Here, read this and let me know what you’d like to do.” A good physician provides options and an informed opinion so a patient can make an informed decision about his or her care.

Our patients are our top priority. Call that an agenda if you will, but when care is involved, we will not (and should not) cower.

Yesterday, the city attorney reiterated that we are on solid legal ground to share information on this topic and our point-of-view at this time, and we do not consider these expenditures to be ill-spent. To the contrary, ensuring people are informed about our future, understand our perspective, and can form their own opinions, connects directly with our mission to provide highest quality health care.

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