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Making sense of tragedy: the ‘reputational’ antecedents of a hospital disaster

By B. Kewell


This article explores the workings of Reputational Dialogues (RD) (as a form of organizational discourse); within the setting of a UK NHS hospital that has encountered disaster. The disaster in question took place at the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI), circa 1984-1995; and is thought to have incurred the deaths of 34 ‘special heart babies’. The article explores patterns of RD utilization associated with the tragedy. Transcripts from the hearings of an inquiry into the disaster are used to access these patterns– if within specific limits and constraints that are discussed in the article. The article seeks to comment on the workings of RDs within the BRI disaster setting and considers, tentatively, how these dialogues may have helped to institutionalize dominant and (counter-cultural beliefs) about the BRI and its reputation as a provider of cardiovascular care to young children. Overall, the article contributes to organization theory by beginning the process of observing the institutionalization of RD and its by-products, as organizational phenomena

Publisher: Department of Management Studies, University of York
Year: 2005
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