03 April 2008

At the end of the day

...it is very concerning that we do not understand the story, and that people are starting to talk to us, but at the end of the day...

Louise Jones needs some serious interview coaching.


One of the ways Eastern Health can help to restore public confidence in its operations is by speaking in plain English about things that are usually masked behind the cold impersonal language of health care bureaucrats.

Or, as in the examples used above, in the meaningless phrases people rely on when they really don't have anything of substance to say.

With some help, Jones could likely find those words that show she gets it.

But she needs help.

One of the other ways in which Eastern Health will restore public confidence is by demonstrating confidence and an understanding of the issues involved in breast cancer screening and what was done about it.

That didn't come out of Louise Jones' interview on Thursday with Jeff Gilhooley.

Rather, we heard a chief executive officer who had plenty of pat phrases on which to reply - at the end of the day - but nothing of substance to say.

The public will likely find it "concerning" that even two years after this issue first came to light, Eastern Health's senior management doesn't understand the simple maxim of disclosure when 300 to 500 patients are involved versus just one. 

It's the same maxim one that applies for the one:  "maximum disclosure with minimum delay".  It really doesn't matter that you don't have exact answers. It matters that you say something and keep talking as you learn new information.

And surprisingly, once there is some disclosure of what is known, people get remarkably good at understanding.  One of the things they can understand - as in the infamous Tylenol case from the early 1980s - is how to distinguish people genuinely affected by the incident from the people who aren't. Reporters learn how to do it and therefore other people do.

The examples of effective crisis management in situations with similar issues pop to mind:


Toxic shock.

There are  - undoubtedly - a raft of others from the healthcare sector that come close enough to the breast cancer screening problem to serve as a guide to action.

Maximum disclosure with minimum delay.

Keep updating information as it comes in.

No one expects anyone to know everything, perfectly, right at the start.

But they do expect to see action and they do expect to know what's going on.

And "at the end of the day", "it is very concerning" that this aspect of "the story"is "till not understood"by the people who deliver "service" to "clients."

That's okay, though.  The Cameron Inquiry is a lengthy process that may help to drive some rather simple messages home with people who clearly still need to do some thinking about all this.

That's okay, because fundamentally the medium is the message, in this case.

The Cameron Inquiry is a process.

Treatment is a process.

Communication is a process, too.