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A Crash Course in Crisis Communications

Marianne Aiello, for HealthLeaders Media, July 11, 2012

The leaked documents' long-term financial projections, however, inexplicably include a scenario where the medical center's operating margin begins to plummet in 2013, resulting in a situation where St. Luke's could close in 2020—less than four years after Cathedral Hill Hospital's planned 2016 opening.

Board of Supervisors President David Chiu characterizes the financials as "highly suspicious,” according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

San Singer, a spokesperson for California Pacific Medical Center, has since explained that this particular financial projection was merely a draft that was never seriously considered. This defense sounds plausible.

But Singer's remarks went further:

The notion that CPMC is cooking the books is, he said,  "a leftist conspiracy that makes no sense to anybody who lives on planet earth.” And: "For those of us on planet earth, nobody spends nearly $300 million to make a project go under. This is a financial draft that we never contemplated, never used, and is now helping people who have fantasies of disaster.”

Perhaps these comments are driven by frustration, but they come off as plain defensive. And as far as crisis management goes, they are not helpful.

For our purposes, CPMC's response to the document leak and fallout can serve as a crash course in public relations and crisis management.

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