A North Carolina doctor who had formerly served as the Chief of Medical Staff for a regional medical center argued at a virtual meeting that the hospital’s messaging needs to be “a little bit more scary for the public,” suggesting that the hospital include “post-Covid” patients in the hospital’s case count.

The internal discussion on how the hospital reports its COVID-19 patient count featured Dr. Mary Rudyk, who previously served as Chief of Medical Staff for Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center, Shelbourn Stevens, the president of NHRMC, and the hospital’s Director of Marketing, Carolyn Fisher.

In the video, Fisher explained, “The dashboard and how it’s set up myself as far as how we get information out to the community on meaningful numbers, we’ve only set on a weekly basis. So that’s on our website and we’ve been sharing that through social channels as well, particularly those graphics that show the number of patients in-house, the percentage of them that are unvaccinated, percentage of unvaccinated people in the ICU and the percentage of deaths and the numbers. So those are numbers that we put out as far as we don’t get into details of — of those other numbers are certainly out there.”

Rudyk stated, “I guess my feeling at this point in time is maybe we need to be completely a little bit more scary for the public. Then there’s another comment that I completely agree there are many people still hospitalized that we’re considering post-Covid but we’re not counting in those numbers. So how do we include those post-Covid people in the numbers of the patients we have in the hospital?”

Fisher: “So is that all the people who have been in the hospital since the beginning of Covid?”

“Well, or but are still in,” Rudyk replied. “And that’s something that I can take to someone else. But I think those are important numbers. The patients that are still in the hospital that are off the Covid floor but still are occupying the hospital for a variety of reasons. “

Stevens interjected, “Caroline, I’m sorry, we’re calling those recovered now. If you look at the Novant Health Dashboard, they’re listed as recovered, but I do think, from our standpoint we would still consider them a Covid patient because they’re still here.”

“I think that that needs to be highlighted as well. Because once they’re off isolation, they drop from the Covid numbers; that’s exactly right,” Rudyk said.

Stevens suggested, “Caroline, we can talk offline how we run that up to marketing.”

Rudyk continued, “So I was going to say, Caroline, I think we have to be more blunt; we have to be more forceful…we have to say something coming out, you know you don’t get vaccinated; you know you’re going to die. Let’s just be really blunt to these people.”

NHRMC Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center released a statement after the video of the conversation was made public, according to WECT. They stated:

The team members involved in this excerpt of an internal meeting are seeing the highest level of COVID-19 hospitalizations and deaths so far in this pandemic – despite having safe and effective vaccines widely available. This was a frank discussion among medical and communications professionals on how we can more accurately convey the severity and seriousness of what’s happening inside of our hospitals and throughout our communities. Specifically, the data we have been sharing does not include patients who remain hospitalized for COVID-19 complications even though they are no longer COVID-19 positive, so it does not provide a complete picture of the total impact of COVID-19 on our patients and on our hospitals. We continue to be concerned with the amount of misinformation in our communities and consistently strive for more ways to be transparent and tell the whole story. The continued rise of hospitalizations makes it evident that we have more work to do to reach our communities with these messages.

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