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CEO At Center of Meningitis Outbreak Speaks

Philip Betbeze, for HealthLeaders Media, October 19, 2012

The clinic took care of notifying patients, but the hospital was responsible for doing what it could for infected patients. At one point, Saint Thomas was treating up to 45 patients a day who had received the injections—not a small feat for the 29-bed ED.

As a CEO in a crisis situation, Rudolph says it's most important not to be in the way, especially as far as the clinical care teams were concerned. Her role, as she saw it, was to be involved in all the conversations going on about the crisis, so that she could have an up-to-date global view of the situation.

"We have wonderful leaders in infectious disease who could work with the Tennessee Emergency Management Association and the CDC, so I stayed out of the way there," she says. The COO and CNO coordinated ER and ED and internal support, "to make sure we're keeping our daily operations running and anticipating how this might evolve."

Being at the center of a mushrooming public health scare wasn't something she expected, but she says "being in hospital operations for 20 years, we're certainly familiar with operating in the face of a disaster. Still, this was a fairly unprecedented situation around care protocols, so we had to figure out how that might affect our already developed emergency plan. I had to be the person who is observing."

Not only was she observing, but she was also making herself available to anyone who had anything to do with managing patient care in the face of the crisis.

"Certainly, in hospitals and health systems, we have to be able to surge, meaning that you have to know where your entry points are in the hospital and develop an incredible amount of teamwork," she says.

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