Another reason we need The Boston Globe – nursing home coverage

CaptureAs The Globe heads for another round of buyouts,  consider one of many reasons we so need a robust news operation in town: your parents.

Or maybe your grandparents. Or anyone who lives or works in a nursing home in the state. Kay Lazar has been doing some great reporting on conditions in and regulation of nursing homes.

I covered this beat in NC in the 1990s,  so I know the kind of dark places she’s had to go to get these stories. (I count the state Department of Public Health — super uncooperative about public records — among them.) I started reporting on the low fines North Carolina was issuing serious violations of are rules.  After a couple months of this, a county inspector told me this: one home owner said: I don’t care how much you fine me, just keep me out of the paper. When our news operations are diminished, she’ll get her wish.

A small sample of Lazar’s work:

A pattern of profit and subpar care at Mass. nursing homes

The Globe scrutinized the 2014 financial reports, the latest available, from 396 Massachusetts nursing homes and examined the money spent on nursing care, patient food, management, rent, and fees for therapy, office support, and other services. Also examined were health and safety violations for each nursing home.

For-profit nursing homes, which constitute three-quarters of those in the state, frequently devote less money to nursing care, compared to nonprofit homes, the analysis showed.

From Tuesday’s paper

Nursing homes are being bought and sold in the United States at a rapid clip, raising questions about the quality of care, according to a Harvard University-led study published Monday.

Corporate owners appear to target nursing homes beset with problems, and the difficulties — notably health and safety violations — often persist after the transactions, the researchers found.

Nursing home owners profited as complaints rose

Over the past year, a portrait has emerged of substandard care in many of the nursing homes run by Braemoor’s owner, Synergy Health Centers. Poor treatment of patients’ festering pressure sores. Medication errors. Inadequate staff training.

Now, a Globe investigation shows that as father and son were paying themselves handsomely, Synergy apparently provided false information when applying for nursing home licenses. The Globe’s review also found that Synergy and its affiliated companies assembled a string of 11 nursing homes with little state scrutiny of the backgrounds of top executives, including Larry Lipschutz, who faces tens of thousands of dollars in fines because of previous business dealings.

 

 

Federal prosecutors investigate double-booked #surgeries identified in Globe Spotlight series #MGH #qualityofcare

Note that the Globe’s story on double book has instigated some scrutiny from outside the world of medicine and journalism. ss2 (2)

Federal prosecutors have subpoenaed 10 years of internal records from Massachusetts General Hospital and have interviewed several physicians as part of an investigation into surgeons running two operating rooms at the same time, according to individuals with direct knowledge of the probe.

Some MGH staff members have raised concerns for years about double-booked operations in the renowned hospital’s orthopedics department, a dispute little known to the public until a Globe Spotlight Team report last month. Hospital officials say concurrent surgery is safe and improves efficiency, but critics say the practice is risky and that, too often, patients are not told their surgeon plans to manage a second, simultaneous case.

Also note that MGH feels the article treated the institution unfairly.

MGH 2010

MGH 2010

MGH set up a website for patients in response to the Spotlight report and sent out e-mails to employees defending double-booking.

“There is no quality and safety issue that the MGH has scrutinized more carefully in recent years than overlapping surgery,’’ Dr. Peter Slavin, the hospital president, and Dr. Thomas Lynch, head of the Massachusetts General Physicians Organization, wrote employees on Oct. 30. “We do not believe that the Globe article provided a fair and balanced description of surgical practices at MGH.’’

A hospital spokeswoman said MGH has had no cancellations or postponements of surgeries and only a handful of questions from patients.

 

Stat, the new (Boston Globe?) life science site, is up

ss1After trickling into The Boston Globe in recent weeks, the STAT website is up. Looks impressive and has some big names on the masthead. (Can we still call it a masthead?) Congratulations to all.

If you are confused about its relationship with the Globe, you’re not alone. STAT is a new animal, digital first with its own staff and budget. The Globe still covers life sciences, but the three fine health reporters there are not part of STAT. Their former editors have migrated to STAT. The team’s science writer migrated to The Washington Post months ago and has yet to be replaced. So, it was STAT that hosted the recent Morrissey Boulevard party for the National Association of Science Writers, not the science-writer-less Globe.

STAT casts itself as a national publication and some  stories run in the A section of the Globe — a nice break from the wire copy that replaced reporting from the long-gone national and foreign desks. They also have columns on Kendall Square — the pharma capital of universe — and  Longwood Avenue — the medical capital of the universe. So, it’s kind of local. Or offering a nod to local?

ss2 (2)

Here’s hoping that they don’t suck the life out of the life-science reporting in the Globe. Not for nostalgia reasons, but for those of us in Boston who need good, local health and science watchdogs. And the team at the Globe does great work.

While Hollywood is celebrating the “Spotlight” movie about the paper’s reporting on the cover-up of rampant pedophilia in the Catholic Church, the latest Spotlight series raises question about overbooking of surgery at Mass General. While the practice may not be unheard of, the story raises important questions about patient safety, informed consent and the hospital’s treatment of whistle blowers.

You think going up against the Catholic Church is scary? Try going up against Partners Healthcare.

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