Hospital Section Masthead

Media Policy

Manual:  Policy and Procedure Manual
Section:  Corporate- Public Relations
Document Status: CURRENT
Last Reviewed/Revised: 2/23/2011
Approved By: Administrative Committee
Next Review: 2/23/2014

Media Relations Policy  POL.ADM.2802

Introduction

The following policy will guide the staff of Ross Memorial Hospital in their dealings with the news media.  It will also be a reference and guide to all media personnel.

The Hospital policy encourages prompt and forthright answers to media inquiries by a  designated media spokesperson.  This is limited only by the Hospital’s responsibility for patient privacy and confidentiality or other similar obligations.  Statements are not permitted to be made by hospital personnel to the media or public except as provided in this policy.

All Hospital staff who are given the responsibility of supplying information to the news media are to do so in a helpful and courteous manner.  We ask that the media act in a similar manner when dealing with Hospital staff.  All media personnel are to contact the Employee & Community Relations office, (hereafter referred to as Public Relations office) at 705-328-6246 to request interviews, photos or information.  Public Relations will forward requests and make arrangements as appropriate. 

SECTION I - Designated Media Spokespersons

All media inquiries are to be referred first to the Public Relations office at extension 6246.  Public Relations is to be immediately informed of any media requests made directly to staff for information or interviews.

Board Spokesperson

The authorized spokesperson for the Board of Governors is either the Chairman of the Board or the President and Chief Executive Officer. (See Section IV for further information pertaining to Board/Media Communications).

Hospital Spokesperson

It is the responsibility of the Public Relations office to maintain general liaison with news media.  Information about hospital programs, special events, hospital staff or any general media inquiry will be provided by:

Authorized Spokespersons

Public Relations Ext. 6246
President & Chief Executive Officer Ext. 6101
or  
Vice President – Resources Ext. 4410
Vice President – Diagnostics & Support Ext. 6086       

Requests from the media for information concerning patients should be directed as follows:

Daytime

Public Relations Or
Vice President - Patient Care/Chief Nursing Officer Or
A Director of Nursing

Evenings and Weekends

Administrative Coordinator Or
Administrator On-Call

Nights & Days - Weekends & Stats

Administrative Coordinator Or
Team Leader - Emergency

Department Heads and Medical Staff are encouraged to play their part in helping keep the community informed of general matters of interest by recommending potential news stories to the Public Relations office.  All initial contacts with the media will be through the Public Relations office.

Medical Spokesperson

The overall responsibility for the maintenance of quality of care standards in the Hospital is legally vested with the Board of Governors.  The Chief of Staff and/or appointed or elected officers of the Medical Staff must advise the Board of Governors with respect to medical activities and quality of care issues.

Media enquiries concerning the provision of medical services are to be directed initially to the Public Relations Office.  Upon discussion of the matter with the Chief of Staff, the matter will be referred to the Board and/or the proper officer of the Medical Staff, as appropriate.

SECTION II - Photographs, Interviews and On-Site Media Coverage

Photographs and Interviews

The Public Relations Office (Ext. 6246) will facilitate the media's requests for photographs and interviews by prearranging for consents and approvals.  Reporters and photographers should come to the Public Relations Office and a staff member will accompany the media representative to the destination.

Permission for the media or other unrelated parties to photograph or interview any patient must first be sought through the Public Relations Office (Ext. 6246).

Photographs

a) Photographs in which patients are identifiable (or will be identified) will not be permitted unless the patient or the patient’s substitute decision-maker has signed a written consent form.  If the patient or his or her substitute decision-maker refuse, the media should be advised that photographs will not be permitted at the request of the patient or substitute decision-maker.

b) Photographs for publication by the media or for professional publication may be taken within the Hospital only if approved by the President and CEO or the Public Relations office.  If patients are involved, informed consent must be obtained as noted under (a) above.

c) Photographs for medical records, spousal assault, child abuse or neglect may be taken within the Hospital with the consent of the patient or substitute-decision maker, as applicable.

On-Site Media Coverage

The Public Relations officer or his or her designate, once aware of the date, time and nature of the media visit, should make the appropriate arrangements. Security and the Information Desk should be notified. Media personnel should be identified as media and should be accompanied by the Public Relations officer or his or her designate at all times during their hospital visit.

All media interviews conducted on Hospital property must be approved by the President and CEO or his or her designate and/or the Public Relations office.  All still, movie or TV photography taken on Hospital property must have the approval of the President and CEO or his or her delegate and/or the Public Relations office.

Media may on occasion wish to take pictures outside of the Hospital without prior knowledge of Hospital personnel.  Under such circumstances, they should be advised that while it is acceptable to use the Hospital as a backdrop, they must not photograph nor interview staff or patients as they enter or leave the premises without obtaining prior authorization.  The Public Relations Office must be immediately notified to deal with this matter.

The media is invited to attend the Open Session of the Board meetings for the purpose of keeping the public informed about activities at the hospital.  Committee-of-the-whole meetings and Board Committee meetings are not open to the public or the media.

SECTION III - Patient Inquiries

Information about patients is confidential and cannot be released to the media without the patient’s consent or that of the patient’s substitute decision maker, except as otherwise provided in this policy.  (Reference: POL.ADM.2801: Confidentiality)

Cases of Public Record

Cases of Public Record refer to situations which have been reported to public authorities such as the Police, Coroner or Public Health Officer.  In most instances, accidents occurring in the street or other public places, or where a patient has been conveyed to the Hospital by the Police or the Fire Department are matters of public record. 
Requests for details about the occurrence must be referred to the proper authority (e.g. Police, Public Health).

When information will be released

When a media request is a matter of public record, information may be provided by the Nursing Unit without the patient’s consent, so long as the following conditions have been met:

a) The news media know the patient’s name and the details of the incident about which they are inquiring.    
b) The Nursing Unit is certain that the next of kin have been notified.
c) The patient, if capable, or the patient’s substitute decision-maker, if the patient is incapable, have not expressly prohibited the provision of information to the media.

What information will be released

If the above conditions are met, the following information may be provided by the Nursing Unit without the patient’s prior consent:

a) Confirmation of the disposition of patient, i.e. discharged, admitted or transferred.

b) Current condition of the patient as listed (good, fair, serious, critical or still being assessed; see below for definitions).

When the conditions above have not been met or when further information is requested, such patient information can only be released by a designated Media Spokesperson (see Section I) and only if permission has been received from the patient or substitute decision-maker.  This consent must be signed and documented using the “Consent Form for Release of Information” form.

The Media Spokesperson shall consult with the patient or the patient’s substitute decision-maker concerning the extent of information to be released to the media. 

Definitions

Good Vital signs are stable and within normal limits.  Patient is conscious and comfortable.  Indicators are excellent.
Fair Vital signs are stable and within normal limits.  Patient is conscious but may be uncomfortable.  Indicators are favourable.
Serious Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits.  Patient is acutely ill.  Indicators are questionable.
Critical Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits.  Patient may be unconscious.  Indicators are unfavourable.
Still Being Assessed Patient is being examined in Emergency Department or undergoing tests.  (This designation can be used pending disposition of patient and establishing appropriate code).

Attending Physician

If the attending Physician agrees, his or her name may be provided to the media for the purpose of obtaining general information only.  The name may not be used without the personal consent of the Physician.

Special Cases - Exceptions to Release of Information

The sensitive nature of some cases dictates that special care must be taken to protect the privacy of patients.

a) Birth Announcements and other Maternity cases

The parents of a newborn (unless the newborn is immediately taken into custody by a Children’s Aid Society) are the only persons with the legal authority to announce the birth.  The physician or midwife and/or the Hospital may do so with the parents’ permission.  The Public Relations office shall be notified prior to any information being provided to the media.

Newsworthy births will include the first Christmas baby, the first baby of the New Year, births to public figures, or births of medical importance.  Where possible, planning of the press release of the news of such births should be done in advance, including the parents, staff, physicians (both obstetrical and paediatric) or midwives.

b) Young Offenders (under 18 years old)

The Young Offenders Act is federal legislation governing youths who have been charged with criminal offenses.  A young offender ranges from 12 to 17 years of age.  It is prudent to avoid releasing any information whatsoever in these cases.  Requests by media for any information should be referred to the investigating police department.

c) Suspected victims of Child Abuse, Sexual Assault or Spousal Battery

Suspected assault or abuse cases must be treated with the utmost confidentiality.  Requests for any information regarding the condition of patients suspected of having been abused should be referred to the investigating police department.

d) Deaths

Public announcement of a patient’s death is not made by a Hospital.  Media should be referred to the family, or if it is a coroner’s case, to the coroner.  In response to a media enquiry, if the above considerations for release of information are met, the Nursing Unit may confirm the fact that the patient has died, but only after the next of kin have been notified by the Police or the attending physician.  No opinion shall be offered as to cause of death.

e) Organ Donations

In Ontario, the Trillium Gift of Life Network Act prohibits any person from disclosing information identifying individuals who donate or refuse to donate organs or who receive organ transplants, whereby their identities may become known publicly.

Individuals may give out information about themselves.  The names of organ donors and recipients should therefore not be given out without the donor or recipient’s consent.  If the person is deceased, the consent must be obtained from his or her personal representative.  If you are asked by the news media whether a deceased patient’s organs were donated, refer the media to the patient’s personal representative.

f) Criminal Offence Cases

There is no reason to treat either the alleged victim or perpetrator differently from other patients.

g) Unmarried Patients under 16 years of age

In the case of an unmarried patient under the age of 16, consent must be obtained from the parents (or other person with lawful custody e.g.: Children’s Aid Society)

h) Prominent Personalities and Cases of Public Interest

In the case of a patient who is a personality of news interest, a consultation will take place with the Hospital’s authorized spokesperson, the attending physician (if necessary) and the patient, concerning the type, extent and source of the information to be released.  The consent of the patient or the person authorized to make treatment decisions on the patient’s behalf if the patient is incapable of making treatment decisions is required.

The newsworthy patient may prefer to have a personal spokesperson handle the information flow to the media.  If so, the Hospital’s authorized spokesperson will confirm arrangements with the patient’s personal spokesperson.  These arrangements take into account the patient’s well being, the welfare of other patients and the ability of the staff to continue to function unhampered.  Regular medical bulletins may be provided in such circumstances.

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