Palomar Health Becomes National Face For Flu Outbreak Response

Palomar Health Becomes National Face For Flu Outbreak Response

Beginning Jan. 2, Palomar Health became the epicenter of media coverage for the flu outbreak response. The coverage grew like a snowball rolling downhill, gaining in size as more media outlets around the nation learned of the surge tent, erected December 29, to handle the overflow of patients flooding the Emergency Department.

Local ABC affiliate 10News was the first to do a live broadcast outside the tent on Jan. 2 for its 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. newscasts. The next afternoon NBC 7, Fox 5, and KUSI News were all broadcasting live for multiple evening newscasts, followed by CBS News 8 doing live broadcasts from inside the tent before it opened the next afternoon. The San Diego Union-Tribune ran a front page photo of Emergency Department Technician Izzy Arreola and RN Alexis Lalande working in the surge tent on Thursday, Jan. 4.

Local TV stations share their video nationwide with their network-affiliated partners around the world, so the local coverage escalated into national coverage from stations in New York, Florida, Texas and Washington; more than 80 broadcast stations nationwide reached tens of millions of viewers and listeners.

CBS Network news out of New York sent a crew to interview Emergency Department Director Michelle Gunnett and Emergency Department Medical Director Dr. Allan Hansen for stories airing nationwide on Saturday and Monday evenings. “Good Morning America” broadcast live from the tent on Jan. 8 and did a story on “ABC World News Tonight” that evening. Later in the week, the Associated Press sent a photographer to the Emergency Department and newspaper publications around the country were again running stories about Palomar Health.

In total, more than 80 television and radio stations and 35 newspapers ran stories and photographs highlighting Palomar Health’s flu response throughout a two-week period at the beginning of the year. Friends of Dr. David Lee, Dr. Allan Hansen and Michelle Gunnett were emailing them from the Midwest and East Coast after seeing them on their local news stations, not to mention “Good Morning America” and “CBS Evening News.”

Although the impetus of the coverage may have been the great visual representation the surge tent brought to this year’s flu outbreak, it was the professional response from all the medical center staff (security, facilities, nurses, doctors) that kept them coming back for more. We received positive feedback on social media on our spokesperson’s knowledge and down-to-earth delivery.

The tent was taken down due to lower flu patient volumes on Jan. 8, but the positive responses to our handling of the crisis continue to flow.

Photo caption: Palomar Health was featured in more than 120 news publications across the nation during the initial stages of the flu outbreak.