Hospital’s crisis management practice

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Thursday, May 29, 2014


SO THE parents of the baby who was found with his lips taped inside the nursery of the Cebu maternity hospital are going to court. This is the eventuality that the hospital has prepared for right from the start. If the hospital management sounded legalistic from the very beginning, it was because they feared that the matter would ultimately reach the courts. This was what defined their crisis management practice.

The Cebu Pacific Flight 387 crash on the slopes of Mt. Sumagaya in Misamis Oriental on February 2, 1998, that killed all 104 people on board was the first major crisis that the young company encountered. Despite their lack of experience in handling disasters, however, Cebu Pacific reacted superbly.

Within hours after confirmation of the loss of the aircraft, the company announced that operations were underway to rescue possible survivors and recover the bodies.

They said they were taking full responsibility for the accident and assured the families of the passengers that they were doing everything humanly possible under the circumstances.

As anguished relatives waited for news on the fate of their loved ones, the company did everything to make their situation bearable. Cebu Pacific left no doubt that it was not running away from accountability; there was no pussyfooting or recourse to legal gobbledygook.

Compare that to how the Cebu maternity hospital responded to the looming crisis.

Instead of saying that they were conducting an investigation into the reported taping, the hospital questioned why the baby’s parents went to Facebook to air their grievance instead of directly filing a complaint with them. They also brushed aside claims that they allowed taping inside the hospital, suggesting instead that the parents could have done it themselves. Why, they even made the father’s appearance an issue!

Now, after at least two other cases of alleged baby lip-sealing incidents at the hospital were reported by their parents, Cebu Maternity is backtracking a bit, saying that they do tape the lips of their infant patients upon doctors’ orders only and mostly to prevent pacifiers from being dislodged. The damage has been done, however.

We are all geniuses in hindsight, that is true. But couldn’t have the hospital management taken a cue from Cebu Pacific’s crisis management style? Would things have turned out differently, if the hospital had issued the following statement as soon as they were informed of the parents’ complaint?

“We have been made aware through informal sources of a complaint from the parents of a child, who was supposedly found with his lips taped while in the nursery of our hospital.

“While we would have welcomed a formal complaint, we have nevertheless decided to immediately conduct an investigation into the alleged incident. We wish to assure everyone that no effort will be spared in our search for the truth and that the guilty party, if any, will be justly punished.

“We also wish the public to know that, contrary to reports, we do not tolerate taping a child’s lips to quiet him. We admit, however, that on certain occasions, we do allow such taping but only upon doctor’s orders and always bearing in mind the need to protect the child from any harm.

“Finally, we appeal to everyone to refrain from making any speculations while our investigation is ongoing. We are determined to find out the truth in the most expeditious way while at the same time affording due process to everyone concerned.”

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 30, 2014.

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