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Amy Umble is health reporter for The Free Lance-Star

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How’s the victim doing? Mary Washington now has the answer

Mary Washington Hospital

Careful readers may have noticed something different about the newspaper’s coverage in recent weeks: Three times since Christmas we’ve included in our stories sentences about the condition of hospitalized accident victims.

The reason is a change of policy at Mary Washington Hospital. For many years those at Mary Washington cited privacy concerns and  declined to provide reporters with any information about the condition of people brought there after accidents. It’s well known here in the newsroom that it’s no use calling the hospital since no one there will tell you anything.

I first noticed a difference  in late December when I called Debbie McInnis, spokeswoman for the hospital, about a coach who had collapsed of cardiac arrest during a basketball tournament at Brooke Point High School. Many people witnessed his collapse, and several came to his aid. A natural question from anyone who knew him, or saw the event, or read about it, was: How’s he doing?

McInnis called back to say that the coach was in stable condition, and Justin Rice, the reporter, included that in his story.

It happened again about a week later when a city school bus was involved in a wreck. Several children were taken to Mary Washington. I called McInnis to ask how they were doing. She said that six students had been brought to the hospital, and that they were treated for minor injuries. Keith Epps included those facts in his story.

And last week, a woman drove into an icy pond in Westmoreland County. Several people risked their lives to pull her from her car. The woman was taken to Mary Washington, and McInnis was able to tell our reporter, Kelly Hannon, that she was in critical condition. The woman died later.

The stories seemed a lot more complete with these details, and I wondered what had happened at the hospital. Had there been a change of policy?

At first, I was afraid to ask for fear that I might jinx it, but I held my breath and sent an e-mail to McInnis. She replied that the change occurred about three months ago, that the hospital wanted to bring its policy in line with the recommendations of the American Hospital Association.

“As long as we have had the name of the patient and the attending feel they have assessed enough to share the condition, we can,” she said.


  • TPKeller

    And that does seem to bring them in line with most other major hospitals in the region. News stories from countless other outlets (reporting on patients in other hospitals of course) have long included these details.

    As long as the patient or their family can opt out of such information sharing if they wish to, I agree that it’s a beneficial policy to have in place.

  • Outsider

    This is an interesting change in policy promoting openness hopefully signaling other changes in direction by Mary Washington Healthcare CEO Fred Rankin. Organizational policies usually reflect the views and attitudes of the CEO and senior executives but sometimes they do not, such as when they are responses to public or governmental pressures.

    Does this mean Fred Rankin is finally going to inform our community by telling us about:
    - how many employees had their jobs abolished in the last 18 month;
    - how MWHC shows respect and appreciation for loyal service by employees losing their jobs;
    - nonmonetary transition assistance provided to employees losing their jobs and whether it includes honest answers to their questions and addresses the emotional impact caused by the sudden loss of a job;
    - whether the loss of jobs helped to increase his compensation and bonus and those of his senior executives;
    - the consequences loss of jobs has on the morale of remaining employees and whether patient care and safety is jeopardized;
    - how much money was spent in the past 18 months rearranging and renovating offices and workspaces that were functional;
    - how much money would be spent for the new entrance signs to MWHC that Mr. Rankin must have;
    - how the new signs are expected to improve the care and safety of patients and improve the job security and morale of employees;
    - how much it cost to change the name of Medicorp to Mary Washington Healthcare, including the costs for signage, new stationary, billing documents, banners, badges, plaques etc.;
    - how the name change to MWHC improved patient care and safety and employee morale; and
    - about the standards used at MWHC to measure the performance of and hold Mr. Rankin and his senior executives accountable for the consequences of their decisions and actions?

    Many more questions could be asked by other community members to help us understand what Mr. Rankin and his senior executives are doing to implement their core values (RESPECT, INTEGRITY, STEWARDSHIP, and EXCELLENCE) and accomplish their mission (TO IMPROVE THE HEALTH STATUS IN OUR COMMUNITY).