Health Team

Wilmington hospital responds after viral video of internal meeting about COVID-19 sparks debate

Posted September 12, 2021 7:57 p.m. EDT
Updated September 13, 2021 12:31 p.m. EDT

— Novant Health New Hanover Regional Medical Center released a statement debunking rumors that the hospital was inaccurately reporting coronavirus hospitalizations to mislead the public, WECT reports.

The viral video features the director of marketing and a doctor who served as the former chief of medical staff for New Hanover Regional Medical Center talking about what information related to coronavirus the hospital shares with the public.

Dr. Mary Rudyk said she feels the hospital's messaging needs to be "a little more scary for the public."

She tells the marketing director that the hospital should provide information to the public about post-COVID-19 hospitalizations, which the hospital was defining as recovered even if they were still hospitalized, the video says.

The social media outrage surrounded this suggestion as many saw it was proof for conspiracy theories about how health officials deliberately inflate COVID-19 numbers. The video circulated in prominent community groups and pages, like the New Hanover County Schools Association of Parents and Teachers.

In a statement, Novant Health told WECT News that they were not releasing data for 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."

The spokesperson also told WECT that they were "concerned with the amount of misinformation in our communities," saying:

“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.

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.”

On New Hanover Regional's Facebook page there are dozens of comments of people who are questioning the hospital's data.

"I just watched a video where your staff basically said we need to lie and skew the numbers of COVID-19 patients so that you can scare people and tell them to get vaccinated or they will die," one person said who commented on the hospital's Facebook page. "I’d sure like to know where the money passes. Lying and trying to scare people ? Why would anybody want to trust your hospital"

Rudyk said in the video that the hospital needed to be blunt with their messaging.

"If you don't get vaccinated, you know you're going to die," she said. "Let's just be really blunt to these people."

Health officials said on Thursday that eight additional COVID-19 deaths were reported in the first week of September, bringing the total number of New Hanover county residents who have died from COVID-19 to 213.

Around 56% of the county is fully vaccinated, data from the state Department of Health says.

"We're seeing a large increase in our COVID patients. They're being admitted sicker, we're admitting them faster than our prior surge," said Keisha Coleman, an ICU nurse with New Hanover Regional.

For more on this story, go to WECT News.

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