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Sentara News Media Guidelines 

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Sentara News Media Guidelines

The Corporate Communications Department of Sentara Healthcare handles media inquiries about patients and our company.

24-hour Media Pager 757-671-4971


The Sentara Corporate communications (PR) team will do all we reasonably can to accommodate requests from the news media for patient conditions, interviews with patients in our facilities and general stories on health care.

We understand breaking news, deadlines and media competition. We appreciate any interest displayed in our news releases. We understand it is a two-way street.

During breaking news events, we will work with reporters and photographers to help you get the information, photos and video you need to tell your stories, while protecting patient privacy, ensuring safe operations and showing sensitivity to families in crisis.

However, our first duty is to patient care, safety and privacy. We are bound by federal HIPPA laws that limit the amount of patient information we may release without specific consent from a patient or patient representative for additional information.

These overriding factors may sometimes be incompatible with breaking news deadlines and the desire for interviews with patients or family members. We may not always be able to provide what you want, or provide it as quickly as you want it. And, there are certain guidelines we expect to be observed, including:

Sentara hospitals, offices and medical practices are private facilities, subject to our rules of access. (See #1 below)

Most patients are not public figures. They are entitled to privacy unless they specifically consent to interviews.

Patients may choose to opt out of information releases about them and we will honor their requests for privacy.  

Rules for Media Coverage at Sentara facilities:

1. Escorts required for News Media On-duty reporters and photographers MUST contact Corporate Communications via the Media Pager for access to Sentara facilities, even if invited by a patient, a patients family or a physician. Sentara requires that an authorized representative accompany on-duty news personnel at all times within our facilities. Security personnel will immediately remove reporters and photographers not escorted by an authorized representative.

2. Patient Consent Form required for interviews and photos A signed Patient Consent Form must be obtained by an authorized Sentara representative from a patient or family member prior to interviewing, photographing or videotaping a patient in our facilities. For minor patients, a parent, guardian or authorized family representative must sign the Patient Consent Form.

3. Access limited to story requested Reporters and photographers will limit their news coverage to the story requested.

4. Other patients off-limits during photography, videotaping When shooting photos or video in common areas of a Sentara facility, avoid images or video of other patients in any way that they can be identified, unless they have signed a Patient Consent Form.

5. Patient care and safety come first
Sentara medical and clinical personnel may be called away for patient care at the last minute before or during an interview.
Interviews, photography and videotaping will cease upon request of the patient, a family member, nurse, physician or an authorized Sentara representative.
Access to patients may be denied if clinical staff or a physician determines that media presence would aggravate a patients condition or interfere with appropriate care or hospital operations.

6. We cannot supply patient names To provide a condition report on a patient, we need a name. We cannot provide you the name of that patient Nightingale flew in this morning.

7. Condition reports limited to one word We use standard language acceptable under HIPPA laws and American Hospital Association guidelines to describe patient conditions. They are:
Undetermined: Patient awaiting physician and/or assessment.
Critical: Vital signs unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious. Indicators unfavorable.
Serious: Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. Patient acutely ill. Indicators questionable.
Fair: Vital signs stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious, may be uncomfortable. Indicators favorable.
Good: Vital signs are stable and within normal limits. Patient is conscious and comfortable. Indicators excellent
Note: Stable is not a patient condition.

We do not elaborate on a patients wounds, injuries, illness or prognosis unless there is specific written consent by the patient or the patients family.
This would be done only under limited circumstances involving high-interest patients such as public officials, celebrities or other patients whose stories are of extraordinary public interest, and only after obtaining Patient Consent for additional information to be released.
The method for releasing that additional information will be determined by Sentara Corporate Communications.

8. Deferrals to public agencies When patients are police officers, sheriffs deputies, firefighters or military personnel, Sentara Corporate Communications may defer to the patients agency or command for release of information, if the agency or command requests that.

9. Confirming patient deaths We will report or confirm a patients death only after appropriate notification of next of kin.

10. After-hours condition reports If it is 4:00am and all the morning show needs is a one-word condition report, that information may be requested from Patient Care Supervisors through hospital operators. Ask the operator to page the Patient Care Supervisor at the hospital you need. Stay on the line. Be patient. They are always busy.
Sentara Operators 757- 388-3000.
- Sentara Norfolk General Hospital
- Sentara Virginia Beach General Hospital
- Sentara Bayside Hospital (Virginia Beach)
- Sentara Leigh Hospital (Norfolk)
- Sentara CarePlex Hospital (Hampton)
- Sentara Williamsburg Regional Medical Center
- Sentara Obici Hospital (Suffolk)

11. In the interest of accuracy News personnel should request Sentara facility information from authorized sources. When information regarding Sentara facilities, patients or personnel is received from sources other than Corporate Communications or designated spokespersons, the reporter has the responsibility to verify its accuracy.

12. Call the Media Pager for all Sentara access Even if you are only going live from the far corner of a Sentara hospital parking lot, call the Sentara Media Pager first, so we can inform security. Help us help you to avoid surprises and conflicts by letting us know you are planning to cover a story at one of our facilities.

13. Nightingale / Coast Guard / Navy helicopters at Sentara Norfolk
General Hospital

Call the Media Pager to let us know a photographer is coming.
PR staff will notify Safety & Security so there are no surprises.
You may set up only at the gate on the south (Medical Tower) side of the helipad. From this position, helo lands left-to-right.
For safety: Remove caps and secure ID badges and other items that rotor wash could blow off your person.
You will be on Sentara property and subject to escort rule. However, due to the hurry-up nature of helicopter arrivals, a PR person may not get there to escort you. Safety and Security staff or another authorized representative may perform that function.
Avoid photos or video that show patients faces.
Do not advance onto the Emergency Department parking lot to follow the gurney rolling. For those shots, remain on sidewalk.
When arrival is complete and patient is in the hospital, depart Sentara property by crossing Gresham Drive, which runs between Sentara Norfolk General and the Medical Tower.

Sentara 24-Hour Media Pager: 757-671-4971

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