UCLA Using ‘Net for Superbug Outbreak Crisis Comms

Jonathan Bernstein crisis communications, crisis management, crisis public relations, Crisis Response, Erik Bernstein, internet crisis management, Jonathan Bernstein, online crisis management, online reputation management, PR, public relations, reputation management Leave a Comment

Becoming a go-to the source for information is a proven crisis management tactic

The deadly “superbug” outbreak at UCLA Medical Center that left seven sick, two dead, and 179 potentially exposed to bacterial infection has made headlines across the country. Several news stories we reviewed referred to statements from Medical Center spokespeople, but when we were unable to find a complete message anywhere we headed to the source.

Many organizations fail to make information easy to find on their websites, a serious mistake when it comes to crisis management, but we quickly found a link to information directly on the UCLAHealth.org landing page. The page featured several updates including the statement below:

The safety of our patients is of our utmost concern.

You may have heard of an unfortunate outbreak of carbapenem resistant Enterobacteriaceae (CRE) bacteria that occurred at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center during complex endoscopic procedures that took place between October 2014 and January 2015.

We want to assure you that it is safe to receive care at UCLA.

  • Only patients who underwent this particular procedure during that time frame are affected. No patients today at UCLA, including those undergoing endoscopic procedures, operative procedures, or clinic visits are at risk from this “super-bug” outbreak.
  • UCLA Health has instituted stricter sterilization procedures for the particular scopes that were used, so that we now have one of the most stringent scope protocols in the United States.
  • Visitors, volunteers and employees are not at risk.

If you have any concerns, please contact your doctor or call UCLA Clinical Epidemiology and Infection Prevention at 310-794-0189.

The page also featured a FAQ on Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, the bacteria behind the disease, a smart addition that will help prevent the spread of rumor and innuendo regarding the infections.

What is didn’t include is something that is missing from a huge percentage of crisis communications among organizations of all kinds – compassion. There is not one line in the several statements featured which demonstrates that anyone at UCLA Medical Center understands or cares about how this situation makes stakeholders feel. Overall a solid use of the Internet for crisis management, but a few lines proving the folks running the center are connecting emotionally with those affected would have given their words a lot more oomph.

Erik & Jonathan Bernstein

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