Hospital’s image is ailing

Sidewalk controversy

Grays Harbor Community Hospital has an image problem. And the first step is for hospital administrators and its publicly elected board to acknowledge that.

This issue with the sidewalk in Montesano is emblematic of the larger issue as a whole. Should the public accept the carefully worded press release issued by the hospital administration as gospel, then the public is supposed to believe that the county, transit officials and city officials all were involved in a “breakdown of communication” that stretches back to late winter involving a piece of property valued at less than $100.

The press release felt like it was written not by a locally controlled, publicly elected entity, but by a corporate giant. There was no contrition. There was nothing to indicate the hospital would try to do better next time. It was pointing fingers to say it’s everybody else’s fault.

The release emerged days after hospital officials refused to comment after a united front of publicly elected officials joined together to say, “Hey hospital. Get your act together. You almost made us lose a multi-million dollar project.”

Instead, there was this sense of arrogance that permeated, like they had some kind of bizarre mandate to do whatever the heck they want. And it also lends credence to the different fights that have been airing — with the union, with salaries, with patient care and doctors leaving. My doctor bolted from Grays Harbor. My mom is driving from Ocean Shores to Olympia because she wants nothing to do with Grays Harbor Community Hospital. If none of that was happening, then maybe there would be an air of believability from the hospital administration.

But, no, this image problem persists. And it’s being ignored. Fancy ads and jingles won’t fix it.

Plenty of people in East County, in particular, voted against the hospital district. Working with Montesano on this sidewalk project could have helped that image. There could have been a ribbon cutting. The chamber could have been standing side by side with the hospital CEO and the mayor and the county commissioners on this project. The publicity on working out the surplus would have gone a long way toward mending bridges. You failed. You continue to fail by having the worst crisis communications strategy I’ve seen in a long time.

The legislators of Grays Harbor used a whole lot of political capital to save the hospital. The voters put their trust in the elected board. It’s time for the board to step up.

Steven Friederich