Novant responds to leaked video with physician asking for extra scary Covid-19 information

A video has been leaked of New Hanover Regional Medical Center management discussing whether to make the Covid-19 news more direct and frightening. (Port City Daily Photo / Johanna F. Still)

NEW HANNOVER COUNTY –– A two-minute excerpt from an internal video conference under the top leadership of Novant Health leaked Friday showing health administrators having a blunt conversation over public Covid-19 news.

It is unclear when the video conference took place and how it was shared. In the past few months, the hospital’s Covid-19 cases have risen and continue to hit new records. For the week that ended September 3, the New Hanover Regional Medical Center was treating its highest ever Cvoid-19 patients, caring for 132 daily. On Friday, that number fell to 98, still enough to put a strain on the healthcare system.

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In the video, team members discuss the possibility of including patients who are currently classified as “recovered” in publicly reported numbers in all hospitalized Covid-19 cases. Although these patients are out of isolation and off the floor designated for Covid-19, they remain in the hospital for various reasons.

For the past few months, the hospital has been reporting basic numbers on a weekly basis regarding the virus’ strain on health resources: total hospital stays, total number of vaccines administered, total number of recovery, daily hospital stay, and total number of deaths. The hospital does not share data on ICU beds or demographic breakdowns of people admitted to the hospital (e.g., how many pediatric cases it sees) and does forward requests to government-reported data; NHRMC reports its trends to this database, figures that are available to the public but also include other health systems in the Southeast.

Carolyn Fisher, director of marketing for NHRMC, told the organizers that the hospital had recently been sharing graphs depicting the majority of hospital stays and intensive care beds with unvaccinated patients.

When asked if recovered Covid-19 patients should be included in the hospital total, Dr. Mary Kathryn Rudyk, whether directly instilling fear could improve conditions. “Maybe we need to get a little scary for the public,” she said. Rudyk was last head of medical staff at the NHRMC in 2020.

Shelbourn Stevens, president of the NHRMC and Novant Health Coastal Market, told Rudyk they could “talk offline” to “boot this up” and was referring to the count of recovered patients.

“I think we have to be more blunt, I think we have to be more forceful, we have to say something that comes out: ‘You know you won’t be vaccinated, you know you will die,'” said Rudyk. “I mean, let’s just be very open to these people.”

Late on Friday afternoon, a Novant Health spokesperson addressed the video, as reported by WECT for the first time:

“The team members involved in this excerpt from an internal meeting have had the highest number of COVID-19 hospital admissions and deaths in this pandemic – despite the fact that safe and effective vaccines are widely available. This has been an open discussion among health professionals and communications professionals about how we can more accurately convey the severity and seriousness of what is happening in our hospitals and in our communities. In particular, the data we share does not include patients staying in hospital for COVID-19 complications even though they are no longer COVID-19 positive, so they do not provide a complete picture of the overall impact of COVID-19 on our patients and in ours Hospitals. We continue to be concerned about the amount of misinformation in our communities and are constantly striving for more ways to be transparent and tell the full story. The continuing surge in hospital admissions makes it clear that we have more work to do to reach our communities with these messages. “

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