Reporter checks records, hits facility with news
of looming closure

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

After picking up new tools and techniques at Health Journalism 2011, reporter Sarah Bruyn Jones returned to The Roanoke Times and lost no time in putting it to use. Her story, on the impending closure of a local assisted living facility, came as a direct result of checking nursing home inspections. It also, if home operators are to be believed, came as a surprise.

Edward Jones, president of Ashed Healthcare Systems, which owns Monticello, said he was unaware of the state’s intentions to close the facility.

“I had no clue of any of this until you mentioned this,” Jones said when contacted late Thursday about the impending closing.

Thanks to the inspection records, Jones’ story is loaded with details like “Moldy bathrooms, poor plumbing, water leaks, crumbling walls, broken lights and roaches,” and a solid chronology of events.

At one point an inspector found that residents had been without toilet paper for at least two days. In July the building’s water was turned off because the owners had failed to pay the bill.

Patients were being given prescription medication when there was no record of a diagnosis for those drugs. In some instances, drugs that were supposed to be given weren’t being dispensed. A diabetic wasn’t receiving insulin. Another patient was only getting half the prescribed dose of medicine.

Earlier this year two residents lost Medicaid coverage after the Monticello staff member assigned to file annual renewals for the residents failed to complete the work.

Covering the Health of Local Nursing HomesSlim guide:
Covering the Health of Local Nursing Homes

This reporting guide gives a head start to journalists who want to pursue stories about one of the most vulnerable populations – nursing home residents. It offers advice about Web sites, datasets, research and other resources. After reading this book, journalists can have more confidence in deciphering nursing home inspection reports, interviewing advocacy groups on all sides of an issue, locating key data, and more. The book includes story examples and ideas.

AHCJ publishes these reporting guides, with the support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, to help journalists understand and accurately report on specific subjects.

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