Operation Room Door

Regaining Community Trust Following OB Closure and Union Activism


Following years of declining admissions – including a reduction in births to fewer than one per week – the board of a small New England hospital made the difficult decision to close its OB unit. Leadership was in the process of notifying internal and external stakeholders when its nurses’ union (which received early notice of the closure per its bargaining agreement) launched a sudden and biting campaign. Within hours social media platforms and local news were flooded with the union’s demands to keep the unit open. Events and protests against the hospital were organized overnight.

Strategy & Tactics

Working closely with hospital leadership and their labor counsel, Lovell developed messaging and materials to help the hospital communicate the issue and navigate the protests. We provided media training and fact sheets to ensure key messages and necessary context were reflected in local coverage. We developed discussion guides and an action plan to help board members make immediate one-to-one outreach with key community leaders – particularly church, school and daycare representatives. We created persuasive social media and advertising content to help the hospital communicate its position in a clear, emotionally sensitive manner.


Though the union’s message made a significant initial impact, local media quickly pivoted to accurately reflect the hospital’s position and rationale for the closure. A local OpEd – along with several letters to the editor – praised the hospital board for making hard decisions to protect needed medical services – particularly for the community’s large and growing senior population. Protests were poorly attended and did not receive news coverage.

Capitalizing on renewed interest in the hospital, Lovell then assisted the hospital in executing an outreach campaign connecting board members and hospital leaders with community groups and individual influencers. The campaign stressed the importance of supporting the hospital and included patient testimonials and social media messages featuring success stories, economic impact stats and employee photos.

Ultimately, our efforts with Karmanos brought their brand to an audience of more than 112 million in our first year.