Presidential Ponderings October 2023

 In News

The federal government recently published some proposed regulations that establish mandatory staffing levels for nursing homes. The current Administration has made frequent comments about the need to improve the care delivered by the “nursing home industry.” That might sound familiar because most Administrations (both federal and state) have issued similar proclamations during their tenures’. For politicians, attacking nursing homes is an easy way to score “political points” because many consumers tend to hold nursing homes in low regard.

Why is that? I personally experienced this phenomenon in late 2007. Londonderry Village had just opened the first two of our four original Green Houses. We were spending nearly seven million dollars on an innovative concept to improve nursing home care for elders in central PA. We were the first Community to operate Green Houses in the whole mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the USA. We thought that was impressive stuff that the media would want to showcase, and so we invited all of the local newspapers and TV stations to our Grand Opening. One TV station showed up…that was it. ABC-27 did a 30-second feature. The reporter who interviewed me confessed that she had to beg her editor to cover our story…he was intending, instead, to have her do an expose of people who are chronically overdue on their library books!!

That is when I discovered that the media isn’t really interested in “positive” nursing home stories. They are the first to arrive and put any kind of nursing home scandal on the front page, but uplifting nursing home stories apparently don’t generate positive ratings or sell newspapers. Most of us remember reading about the ill-fated nursing home in Kirkland, Washington that was the first nursing home to be decimated by the newly arrived covid-19 virus. I would guess that many of us assumed it was a bad nursing home because of all the deaths they suffered from the virus…a circumstance that was widely publicized. However, the Kirkland facility did not receive the same type of coverage years later when an investigation largely exonerated the facility from any wrongdoing because nobody (at that time) knew much about covid-19 and how to contain it.

Back to the new mandatory staffing regulations. They are not really a concern to Londonderry Village because our staffing is already well above those new minimums. In fact, as President Biden noted in a recent speech, most nonprofit nursing homes in the USA are already staffed above the new levels. That fact did not get a lot of press. The feds are actually targeting the for-profit nursing home operators who value profit making over quality of care. Unfortunately, however, when nursing homes come under attack, we all get painted with the same brush. Don’t believe it. Our care is excellent and we are very proud of our dedicated and compassionate staff.

Thanks for Listening,
Jeff Shireman, President

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