Sperlingreene PR was called in by the Medical Board of St. Vincent’s Hospital as it headed into bankruptcy
April 9 Hired
When the call came that Thursday from the Medical Board at St. Vincent’s hospital, I remembered the great care I had received during three visits to the ER there. For years the hospital had been battling alleged mismanagement, a terrible debt and now was facing closure. We weren’t necessarily going to prevent its closure, but these committed doctors at New York’s last Catholic Hospital faced a less dramatic, but real crisis– a threat to their reputations. A well crafted Op Ed piece in the daily papers was not going to do the trick. We immediately saw that we needed to do:
- Build alliances to galvanize community support in an effort to keep St. Vincent’s open
- Educate key audiences on the truth as they knew it – a sad story of bad dealings by previous management
- Remind the community of the quality of care they would continue to receive from those who would continue to support and provide care to in the community.
Our office became the lobby of the hospital. Our client: 350 physicians and 1000 nurses. Within 24 hours we had made personal contact with the New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, AP — every journalist covering the story, meeting some in their offices on Saturday morning. We developed content for their well-trafficked Facebook and other sites. One day later, a written statement went out. Doctors appeared on public radio to debunk the myths. We reached out to elected officials and community organizers. We counseled the client to break their silence quickly and dramatically with a press conference. Hundreds of members of the medical staff in white coats taking to the streets, expressing their frustration and anger at mismanagement and at the New York State Department of Health which had blocked Mount Sinai from purchasing the hospital days before.
33 stories appeared the day of that first press conference. We had been on the account for only 4 days. At the end of that week we helped pull together a meeting of community organizers, promising the support of the doctors and getting behind a pro bono legal action by a City Council candidate, Yetta Kurland, to keep the hospital open.
The second press conference was on the steps of the New York State Supreme Court.
NY1 segment or other at court.
We rallied the community, helping to craft the strategy and message for a March for Life that brought together doctors, nurses and hundreds of community members. We had been on the account for two weeks and a day.
During this period, the doctors were quoted. Their care was cited. We were able to remind the community that these were the doctors who waited for ambulances on 9/11, who were the first to respond with compassion to the AIDS crisis. The only hospital serving the Lower West Side for more than 160 years.
In all we helped craft 115 news segments, radio interviews and online and print stories in less than a month. More importantly, we helped change the dialogue. Elected officials changed their positions, and the doctors of St. Vincent’s preserved and strengthened their reputations in the community.
For the doctors of St. Vincent’s, we created some mighty powerful conversations.