During a presentation to the Provo Municipal Council on Tuesday, Intermountain Utah Valley Hospital administrator Kyle Hansen reported that staff members have dealt with a number of conspiracy theorists trying to gain access to the hospital.
The hospital has also been dealing with calls from the general public surrounding statistics that have been seen in the media as well as questions surrounding hospital or ICU capacity.
Those trying to gain access to the hospital believe that what they are being told is inaccurate and their goal is to videotape or visualize it firsthand, according to Hansen.
Some have gotten creative as well, even lying about coming into the hospital for an appointment, which has led to changes in some procedures.
“The ones that we are aware of, there are probably less than five,” said Hansen. “We’ve become aware of some through social media channels that we weren’t aware of, we’ve become aware of some because we intervene and prevent some of these individuals from gaining access. I don’t want to paint too broad of a picture that people are beating down the doors at every entrance, but it’s certainly something we have noticed here more recently as a trend in terms of certain individuals trying to gain access to the hospital that should not.”
Hansen added that some are interested in the general business of the hospital while others think if they can see an empty waiting room or other areas of the hospital, they can come to conclusions about false information they believe they are being fed by government leaders, the news or other sources.
Instances have been identified on social media where people have claimed to have gained access without video evidence of actually being in the hospital. One instance Hansen saw included a person videotaping themselves while stating that, “This is all a lie,” or, “This hospital is not busy at all.”
Staff at the hospital is also spending time answering the phone calls that continue to ask questions about the validity of the information being put out about hospital capacity, COVID-19 cases, possible crisis care and more.
Hansen clarified that the hospital is much busier than it normally would be during this time of the year, the ICU is consistently full and ICU patients are beginning to be cared for on additional floors of the hospital.
The way the hospital finds its capacity is based on staffing. Hansen added the hospital could have beds open, but without the staff needed to care for patients those beds cannot be filled.
“I want the community to know that it’s true what is being said,” Hansen said. “We are very stretched and our staffs are at this point in the year very exhausted. We are utilizing lots of resources to try and help combat that, including contracted nurses from out of state who are here helping us provide care.”
It does not help that staff are being pulled away to answer phone calls and stop people from trying to enter the building during this busy time.
Hansen said it creates more challenges for the hospital.
“Trying to chase people out of here that are trying to gain access for reasons that are not legitimate, not appropriate, is a waste of everybody’s time,” Hansen said. “We certainly ask for the help of those that might be thinking about doing that, to spend their time doing something else.”
The hospital does have visitor restrictions in place and Hansen said those restrictions may get stricter.
Due to the attempts to gain access to the hospital there has also been changes in how the building’s security guards patrol. Stricter management of hospital entrances are a possible procedure that could be put into place as well.
“While someone may genuinely need to just use the restroom, but in order to do that they have to go by the greeter desk,” Hansen said. “We may not be able to allow that because we have been tricked by that sort of request before. Unfortunately, it means we typically have to have very black and white responses relative to the public that is allowed in.”
He hopes that the hospital does not have to get more restrictive, but it will if needed.
In terms of the overall distrust in the healthcare industry and the scientific community, Hansen said he has never seen anything like this in his almost 20 years in the business.
“I’ve never seen such distrust of the scientific community and the healthcare experts who are trying to be visible and trying to be a voice for what is happening and what’s going on,” Hansen said. “I think, as the governor mentioned, it certainly doesn’t help us that this has all happened during a presidential election year. The politics have gotten involved in this, unfortunately, where really they should not have and that’s made the misinformation part that much more difficult.”
Hansen added that as a society, we are struggling to do the things needed to battle COVID-19 in the best way possible. There is still work to be done but Hansen hopes to come out of the COVID-19 pandemic and into a new chapter.