MIAMI: Good news at Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital (JMH) last
week presented major challenges for the hospital's 12-person PR
After a Chicago hospital refused to treat 11-year-old Ana Esparza
because she was uninsured and could not afford a necessary liver
transplant, doctors at JMH agreed to perform the life-saving
Conchita Ruiz Topinka, JMH's director public affairs and communications,
said she was careful not to disparage the Chicago hospital, and instead
took the opportunity to educate the media about JMH's mission. As a
safety net provider, the hospital treats the poor and underinsured,
representing $325 million in charity care each year.
However, Topinka said she was concerned the local community would be
angered that JMH had gone beyond its regional needy base to provide a
discounted service for someone from another state.
"We emphasized that this girl and her family had raised money and put
forth a lot of effort," said Topinka, who began working with hospital
administrators before Esparza was even admitted as a patient. "From the
very beginning, we wanted to stay on-message that she was going to bring
some money to the table and would continue to raise money."
Topinka said she also felt it important to pay homage to the Chicago
family that donated the liver, partly in order to promote JMH's
organ-donor program. She said that JMH performed 370 transplants in
The PR team split the different aspects of the case, with Topinka
handing the financial PR issues and PR staffer Omar Montero working on