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Crisis Case Study 4

Client: Southeastern community hospital

Business challenge
Address the damage to the hospital’s business engendered by international news coverage of the hospital’s four serious medical errors (including amputation of a wrong leg) in three weeks.

Convince the public that the hospital, especially surgery (which the state ordered closed for nine days) was a “safe” place to get well.

Rebuild a seriously damaged reputation. Restore employee morale. Reassure donors that the hospital was a worthy cause. Convince physicians that their patients were safe. Convince the state regulators that the hospital had addressed its problems and was overcoming them.

Planning process
First order of business was to address the root causes of medical errors in the institution, develop, then implement safe practices, such as writing “Yes” on a limb intended for amputation.

Next was to develop key messages that admitted responsibility for the medical errors, apologized, and described remediation.


Employees were armed with complete information about what happened and what the hospital was doing to fix the process.

Then external audiences were addressed through local and state media.

Regulators, donors and other VIPs were met, face-to-face and frequently, by hospital leadership.

It was a long, slow, painful, 18-month process, but the public was eager to forgive a hospital that admitted its mistakes, apologized for them, and then corrected them.

The hospital was restored to solvency.

Hospital safety innovations were copied in many U.S. hospitals.

Case Studies: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8

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