Columbia VA Health Care System
News, Events & Media Home
The Office of Public Affairs provides support and assistance to members of the news media and community organizations:
- Responses to media queries
- Providing Subject Matter Experts for interviews and speaking engagements
- Scheduling and coordinating interviews
- Fact sheets and statistical information
- Images of our facilities and official logos
- Information about VA-related outreach and events
Communicating with the public and other stakeholders about how we provide exceptional healthcare to Veterans is vital to the work we do. Towards that end, we make every attempt to assist News Media in their newsgathering, to provide access to our facilities, and to make expert resources available. Our top priority, however, is protecting the privacy and security of the patients we serve.
Setting Up Media Interviews Please contact Public Affairs if you are interested in locating a VA official or subject matter expert for a story. Patients, in particular, must agree to be interviewed and photographed and must sign a consent form.
Visiting Our Facilities We strictly adhere to federal guidelines regarding patient privacy as outlined by the 1996 Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). To protect our patients' privacy, we require all reporters and photographers visiting our facilities to be escorted by a Public Affairs staff member. Media access may be limited or denied to any area of a facility at the discretion of the healthcare system director, the patients' healthcare team or individual physicians.
Patient Condition Reports We are responsible for protecting the privacy and confidentiality of our patients and patient information. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) governs privacy standards for healthcare information. If a patient has agreed to be listed in our hospital directory, we can provide a one-word condition after the patient's correct first and last name, including exact spelling, are provided. If a patient has opted out of our directory or chooses not to have a condition released, staff will not be able to provide a condition update or even acknowledge that the individual is a patient. Our response will be "I have no information available for a person by that name."
- Patient condition descriptions
- Undetermined – Patient awaiting physician and/or assessment.
- Good – Vital signs are stable and within normal limits.
- Patient is conscious and comfortable. Indicators are excellent.
- Fair – Vital signs are stable and within normal limits.
- Patient is conscious but may be uncomfortable. Indicators are favorable.
- Serious – Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits.
- Patient is acutely ill. Indicators are questionable.
- Critical – Vital signs are unstable and not within normal limits. Patient may be unconscious. Indicators are unfavorable.
- Deceased – Death status can only be confirmed only after next-of-kin has been notified. Official information on cause of death or additional information will be referred to the county medical examiner's office. Patients have the right to restrict certain disclosures at any time. If they do, we can no longer provide additional updates.
Information that can be released in the event of a natural disaster or major accident We can confirm if we are or are not receiving victims of a particular incident or accident. In the case of disasters, we will provide the number of patients, the nature of injuries as we know them at the time, gender and range of ages. Once the patients have arrived and are being treated in the emergency department, we will not have additional information to provide.