Saint Thomas CEO Looks Beyond Meningitis Outbreak

Dawn Rudolph was named CEO of Saint Thomas Hospital in 2010.

Dawn Rudolph was named CEO of Saint Thomas Hospital in 2010.

Nashville’s Saint Thomas Hospital is still treating nearly two-dozen patients who contracted fungal meningitis through a clinic on its West End campus. The hospital has gone out of its way to be helpful during the outbreak while also trying to keep from being blamed.

The balance has been a delicate one for the 113-year-old health care institution.

“Honestly, as the CEO of this hospital, I often wondered, ‘why are we in the middle of all of this?’”

CEO Dawn Rudolph says that while the Saint Thomas Outpatient Neurosurgery Center share’s the hospital’s name and location, it is not the hospital. And even if it was, she says, it’s the compounding pharmacy in Massachusetts at fault for distributing tainted steroids.

Still, the Saint Thomas ER is where the surgery center told people with symptoms to go. Doctors there have now performed more than 500 spinal taps to check for meningitis and cared for 42 sick patients in total – more than half of all those infected in the state. Asked if the hospital’s name has been muddied in the process, Rudolph says no.

“They chose Saint Thomas for their emergency room because that’s where they get their care and they trust that care.”

However, Saint Thomas may have more public relations battles to fight in the coming months. While the hospital hasn’t yet been named in a growing number of outbreak-related lawsuits, legal experts say it’s only a matter of time.

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