feat. Sean Hamill | Sean Hamill, reporter for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, talks about the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on senior care facilities, the future of local newspapers, and more.


In this episode of On Crisis, Joanna Doven is joined by Sean Hamill, a repoter for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazettewhose recent series on one of the largest COVID-19 outbreaks of any nursing home in America has led to data reporting changes and attorney general investigations that will increase accountability at these “end of life” facilities. As a news veteran, we discuss with Sean the future of local newspapers and how they can be saved, why Google and Facebook can play a key role in their comeback and, of course, the years-long steps that led to 332 residents becoming infected and nearly 100 dying from COVID-19 in Pennsylvania’s third largest nursing home. The real results of Sean’s diligent local investigative reporting backs a saying from his college professor: “Local news is at the heart of what makes America work; you have to have eyes on the mundane.”

Episode 8: Sean Hamill - The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

by On Crisis Podcast

Read the Transcript

Speaker 1 (00:00:07):

I’m Joanna Doven. This is “On Crisis”, bringing together PR experts, thought leaders, creatives, and CEOs here to start conversations and connect people with real life stories in crisis communications.

Speaker 2 (00:00:20):

The COVID-19 pandemic really shone a light on senior care facilities and nursing homes. What the heck is happening inside of them. These facilities are rarely in the media spotlight, but now they’re facing a crisis communication storm. We talk with the award-winning reporter, Sean Hamill, who was reported for the New York times Chicago Tribune, and is currently the lead health reporter at his hometown cities paper that Pittsburgh post Gazette, his recent series into one of the largest COVID -9 outbreaks of any nursing home in America has led to data reporting measures an AG internal investigation. Basically all of the nursing homes, at least in Pennsylvania are being looked at now. It’s amazing how good local investigative journalism can impact and change lives. And without it, oftentimes bureaucracies in government is just too busy or really too stuck in the mundane to pay much attention.

Speaker 2 (00:01:28):

Sean’s a big news veteran. He’s been in the business since he was a team. So we discussed the future of local newspapers and how they can be saved. Something that I care deeply about his insights into why he thinks Google and Facebook should play a key role in local newspapers and local journalism’s come back is very interesting. And of course we dive into really what’s happening inside of these facilities. How, how do they make money? And if we can follow how they make money, we can start to unearth some of the root causes of the problems that lead to lack of care, lack of infection control and ultimately how some of these facilities literally became COVID-19 death camps. When I think of the real results of Sean’s reporting and there’s many other series he’s done in the past that have led to changes I think about this quote, he, he gave in the podcast that was attributed to one of his professors in school.

Speaker 2 (00:02:31):

And it said the quote was local news is at the heart of what makes America work. You have to have eyes on the mundane, you have to have eyes in the mundane. I look forward to you all liking and sharing this episode. Especially if you care about the most vulnerable population, which is, you know, our, our youths are our children, our seniors, our seniors. I think about my, my own family, my, my mom, who at some point in her life is going to need extra care and wow, I’m afraid. I’m afraid if I can’t take care of her, I’m afraid of how our system right now is monitoring these end of life facilities, listening. So excited to have Sean Hamill, an investigative reporter with the Pittsburgh post Gazette here with us today. He is one of the most thorough articulate reporters that I know of.

Speaker 2 (00:03:32):

And I’ve been in the business for a long time. Sean, we’re going to talk a lot about what’s happening in America’s nursing homes based on your reporting here in Pennsylvania. The pandemic has, has shown a really bright light on nursing facilities and senior facilities when it comes to what the heck they’re doing, how they’re reporting, how they’re communicating with families of, and really with, with governments. Before we get there, let’s talk a little bit about you. Tell me what, how did you get into reporting? What was the bug always there? Take us back.

Speaker 3 (00:04:12):

I didn’t know that the bug was always there. I always liked writing for whatever reason. I loved comics as a kid and that was about the only thing I wanted to read. But when I was 10, I got, I needed to get a job. My dad lost his job here in 1976, like so many other people in Pittsburgh during the the recession of that year. And we didn’t have as much money. So I went and got a job delivering the Post-Gazette and I didn’t notice it right off the bat, but I slowly started to become more and more interested in reading the paper I was carrying around. I would when I would walk the route initially, I would just read the sports section when I was 10, 11, 12, 13, the last two years, 14, 15 going into ninth grade. I found myself wandering over to Phil music’s column.

Speaker 3 (00:05:06):

He was a great columnist for the Post-Gazette and then wandering to the local section when there was a mention of my hometown so quickly or something on the front page that caught my eye. And it just sort of creeps up on you. And all of a sudden you start reading about everything. And I still didn’t think I was a writer until I was in college and thought it was going to be a business major. And really didn’t like, I really didn’t like that. I didn’t like the courses I was taking. It all felt like Greek to me. And I had had teachers in high school tell me, you know, you should be a writer. And that just to make any sense to me because I didn’t know anybody who was, I, I didn’t know what that meant. Like in my mind writers, these amazing creatures that sort of were like born writing and I didn’t feel like I, I was that and then when I was a sophomore in college my next door neighbors moved in and they were both photographers at the Pittsburgh press and they had just come from the university of Missouri and they noticed that I was freelance writing in the sports section of the Sewickley Herald just for fun.

Speaker 3 (00:06:25):

And they said, why don’t you do this? And I was like, ah, I don’t, I don’t know. I don’t know if this is what I want to do. And eventually I decided it was what I wanted to do. And they said you should go to the university of Missouri. And I applied and for some reason they let me in and I loved my time there. And I learned how to write and edit and do a decent job of taking photographs and started working in newspapers first in Missouri for three years, and then 12 years in Chicago. And then when my first son was born, we moved back to Pittsburgh and I freelance for a while, mostly for the New York times and then 10 years ago next month 10 years ago next month I got hired at the post cassette and I’ve been here ever since.

Speaker 2 (00:07:17):

Wow. So it’s a, it’s an incredible story because, you know, at 10 were involved with newspapers and, you know, found your found, I guess, your, your passion, not everybody gets to experience having their passion be there either career, but what, what kind of journalism has excited you the most? I mean, I know you’ve had a lot of awards for your journalism, but I see you as a top notch, investigative journalists. Talk to us about your, your, your top three, you know, stories that you felt really made a difference or, you know, excited you

Speaker 3 (00:08:03):

Well for the last 10 years. Most of those stories have been health-related. I was originally hired as a health reporter and over time they let me do longer and longer stories first under David Truman now under Stan. And one of the earliest stories that we did was myself and another reporter at the paper, John silver that came out of really the kind of anecdotal looking around that you do when you’re a reporter, when you’re covering a beat. I had noticed that UPMC like everybody did by 2010, 2011 had gotten really, really big around here, right? They had bought up a lot of hospitals and I became curious about why they were buying them, what they were paying for them, where they bought land. And so I started to try to make a list of all the properties that they owned and that proved much more difficult than I ever would have thought.

Speaker 3 (00:09:05):

I thought I could go into the County computer and put in the UPMC or University of Pittsburgh medical center and everything would come up. But I noticed really quickly that that wasn’t the case. A lot of the properties they owned weren’t under their name because they bought the the business, if you will like mercy hospital, but they never changed the title because you’re not required to when you buy the business of the property. So I had to go piece by piece, every place that I could find an address for them. And then look on a map and look at all the parcels around them to see what they really own. And what we came up with was just a staggering amount. And it’s so much larger now. I mean, it’s, it’s probably time to do a revisit to that 10 years later because they’ve only gotten that much bigger and not just here in Pittsburgh, we focused primarily on Allegheny County, but as you and everybody else knows, they now own hospitals into central Pennsylvania, into New York.

Speaker 3 (00:09:57):

And they’re looking further afield than that, that story had a lot of impact because one of the central tenants of what we found was that they had become so powerful and wealthy as a corporation, that when they decided to move into a neighborhood or they wanted a corner or a section of land next to an existing hospital, they could literally pay whatever they wanted to ensure that they got that parcel. So what we found generally was that they paid way, way, way more than market rate for properties. So much more that they were like upsetting the property values beyond that, the parcels they wanted into neighborhoods. And then if things didn’t work out and they decided that he didn’t want those parcels, they sold them at a huge loss. And it was that story that in part led Luke Ravenstahl the former mayor to file a lawsuit challenging UPMC’s nonprofit status,

Speaker 2 (00:10:59):

Which was quite, I was the press secretary at the time.

Speaker 3 (00:11:02):

Right, right. Yeah. That was pretty,

Speaker 2 (00:11:06):

That story was, it was

Speaker 3 (00:11:07):

A shocking move. And, and then Mayor Ravenstahl told us that our stories were one of the reasons why he decided to file it because it was so stunning to him that a nonprofit hospital that’s supposed to provide healthcare was spending so much on land literally at will wherever they wanted to. Okay.

Speaker 2 (00:11:28):

The pro I mean, the problem is, you know, the city is small 45 square miles, right. If I recall, and you know, about half of our taxable land is not taxable because of UPFC and then take into, into consideration educational institutions. Right. And I remember the mayor and his team trying to increase the pilot payment payment of taxes. Right. Right. And there just being absolutely no appetite for that. And then your stories, it was around the time your stories were hitting and it gave, it gave, it gave backbone and credibility to the whole argument.

Speaker 3 (00:12:09):

Right. Right. And that was going on in the courts. And then when when he left office mayor Peduto, one of the first things he did that first year was as he said, strike a deal with UPMC, that they were going to work on some payment system to the city and he dropped the lawsuit and we still haven’t seen the results of that deal. We’re still waiting that that was, I want to say five years ago now

Speaker 2 (00:12:34):

That’s, that’s due for followup too. You’re going to be busy after this. Yeah.

Speaker 3 (00:12:37):

Well, we, we, we check in from time to time. I know our city hall reporter Ashley, Marie has checked in on that. We, you know, that’s still in that UPMC, wasn’t the only one, there were other institutions that were supposed to pay into this community fund. Their Mayor Peduto wanted to create. I know there are a lot of people in the city anxious to see that created. I know the pandemic has probably upset that for a lot of reasons this year, but

Speaker 2 (00:13:02):

No, I don’t know if you realize this, but so you’re reporting and which sort of the domino effect of your reporting. So that led to everyone’s eyes being wide open with regard to the, I mean, the, the amount like the, the economic impact that nonprofit land is not taxable has on communities. And there was a lot of pressure on UPMC and then in 2008, right around the same time, what did they do? They announced the Pittsburgh promise billion dollars as a way to say, you know, as a way to say, look, I mean, it was a brilliant PR move. So yeah.

Speaker 3 (00:13:46):

Well, the one of the other upsides or results of that was one of the things we John and I stumbled upon, we went trudging through literally a dusty dingy basement that the County kept its non-profit application records in, they just kind of pointed us to this room in this place over on the East side of town and said, you know, they’re in here somewhere and they let us just troll through these boxes with like rubber bands that would snap apart into pieces. The second you’d touch them. And we went looking for UPMCs and we could have done it for any nonprofit, but we went looking for their applications for every parcel that the owned and if memory serves correctly, I don’t believe we found any more than 50% of the applications… In essence, the County could not validate that any of those parcels were there.

Speaker 3 (00:14:40):

We didn’t have applications for deserved their nonprofit status. And the result of that finding was that the County ordered for the first time a county-wide nonprofit re application process, where they asked every nonprofit to reapply and justify their non-profit status on land that had been put into the County regs. I want to say close to a decade prior to that, they just had never enforced it. It was supposed to be done. I believe every three years kind of like a triennial reassessment that some counties do. And they went through it and there were, there were quite a few parcels, many more beyond UPMC. I think UPMC may have overturned the nonprofit status on one parcel. But there were many, many parcels that had to lose their nonprofit status typically because the use of that property had changed over time, even if the owner hadn’t, but that was a huge undertaking.

Speaker 3 (00:15:43):

The County dove into it. I believe that they finally finished that about after about three or four years because they ordered a year after our series ran and it took them years and years to get it done because there are tens of thousands of parcels in the County. And as you said, a huge percentage of them are owned by nonprofit partners and not just hospitals and education institutions, but that include religious exemptions the churches all over the region, synagogues, mosques you know, boys and girls club owned property, things like that. And they reviewed every one of them. And that’s probably a good thing to do, especially when, you know, you are not just in the city, but in the County, you’re looking for tax dollars that you deserve rightly. And you want to make sure that those properties are on the tax rolls if they deserve to be

Speaker 2 (00:16:36):

Absolutely. Then we can’t invest in things like infrastructure. So, so I, you know, w give me one more story before we dive into the nursing home conundrum that, that you’d like to tell our audience. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s interesting to think back on the impact you’ve had in the region three reporting at the post cause that, especially in light of how newspapers are struggling, you know, and how media has changed over the past 10 years. Let’s let me ask you a quick question about that. How, how do you feel about the, the present and future of, you know, independent newspapers like the Post-Gazette?

Speaker 3 (00:17:22):

I, I unfortunately have to say, I think it’s in doubt. I mean, there’s just too much evidence across the country. I mean, there are cities and we’re, we’re close to being one of them that don’t have a paper paper have gone all online. Now, in theory, going online will help us. We will lose the costs associated with producing a paper. But as many cities have found in some institutions have found, you know, losing the print paper has a downside too. You don’t have that physical presence on the doctor’s table. When patients come in to see the, see the dentist or the doctor it’s not left in a seat on the bus. And you know, online, we struggle to just like every paper does to not only get our message out, but to get our message out and make it worthwhile to us.

Speaker 3 (00:18:16):

You know, there’s a lawsuit out there right now. It’s the first of what may, maybe many, a lot of our content, you know, because we are the largest still, despite the cuts over the years and including the decade that I’ve been there, we are still the largest news source in town. We have more reporters than any other news source in town, any TV station or radio station or other paper. And as a result, we break more stories than anybody else. And unfortunately what you find online, and this is, this is a huge issue, really as evidenced by what happened in Australia, you know, Australia tried to get Facebook and Google to agree, to pay news organizations for content. One of the reasons they did that was our stories ended up on Facebook or get searched on Google that draws people to Facebook and Google.

Speaker 3 (00:19:06):

They get more users, right? Who want to go there in part, because of all the news, they can access there, but they never the clicks that go to Google and Facebook that they may open our story that doesn’t result in money from Facebook or Google to us. Now, if we were, if we were beyond say right, and we were making a video of our new song that we wrote, or that we had ownership of, and Facebook puts it up on their site and Google puts it up on their site as a result of a click, and then it’s opened up and played. They have to pay for that copyright song, a fraction of a penny every time it’s played. So when you have a billion clicks on YouTube, on a song, Beyonce is getting paid. If my, if my, if my article gets read a million times on Google or Facebook, we don’t get any money.

Speaker 2 (00:19:59):

Yeah. Because there is, but there is a pay wall with the Post-Gazette. But what you’re saying is it’s only a certain amount of articles. So I can still, you could still have a million articles of people who have done less than seven articles a month, and they’re still getting that content for free. And Facebook is getting the, you know, the app, the eyes credit, so to speak

Speaker 3 (00:20:18):

Well well beyond the fact that another issue is that often you will see our breaking stories you know, especially in sports, but also in news. Because we break so many sports stories as well or great sports staff, our stories will get rewritten by any number dozens, if not hundreds of websites, I’ve seen my stories, rewritten, you know, hundreds of times on one individual story, if it was a big breaking national story that had legs like that get rewritten sometimes almost verbatim with not even a link back to our story. So they just use the content. Now, almost everybody does this. You know, there are some papers that have, I don’t even know what the term is, but I’d call them like rewrite folks or out amalgam, maters, where they go and they read stories. And the way they try to get around saying, we stole it from the Post-Gazette or whomever is they’ll read four different versions of the story.

Speaker 3 (00:21:16):

And they’ll say in the first two graphs, we’ll say, NBC news said, then I’ll say the post that said, then I will set on Yahoo. It said, and they’ll say, this is our original content. Well, they never interviewed anybody. And so, you know, I, I think it’s obvious that the work that we do is incredibly valuable to the public because, you know, 95% of what we do is interviewing people, doing our own reporting and research. We don’t have full-time staffers who are doing that. Amalgamating, reading news sources, pulling down things like that. We have to go out into the community and call people and visit with people to do stories that is incredibly hard and expensive work in the current formula. We don’t really make all the money that, that work generates because of the way that it’s used by other content providers, Facebook, Google, and then the, you know, hundreds and thousands of other news sites.

Speaker 3 (00:22:12):

That’ll take our work and rejigger it. So that, that looks like it’s a new story. And that happens every day it’s happening right now. I promise you coming out of the morning news meetings, there’s somebody saying, Hey, there was this story in the Post-Gazette, you know, Hey, let’s do our own version of it. If they can’t get an easy one person interview, they just rewrite it. And they might even put a link to the Post-Gazette and we might get a few clicks, but that institution’s going to get oftentimes even more clicks, especially if they’re bigger. I mean, the Washington post does this to us from time to time, they’ll get hundreds of thousands of clicks on a story. And we might even pick up a hundred thousand more clicks from there. They’re rewriting of our story, but I’ve seen that happen with my own stories on the post.

Speaker 3 (00:22:57):

And some other institutions it’s, it is a scourge w you know, we’re all trying to sort through believing that we’re still really early. I mean, we’re not at the Gutenberg press stage of the internet. I mean, we’re, we’re, we’re more in the third ending than the first, but we are still trying to figure this out. I don’t know what the perfect solution is to making money on this. I don’t think anybody really does the national papers have a better feel for it. I think because size really helps in the current internet environment being the New York times and the Washington post in terms of making money is easier because the entire country is your oyster, you know, the, what we do relative. Right, right. We do great what we are known for rightly so is Pittsburgh in Southwestern PA, like this is our, this is our backyard and we should do it well.

Speaker 3 (00:23:50):

There are some local papers that have tried to use over that national model. Let’s do stories anywhere. They don’t seem to result in the same kind of boom that it does for New York times, the Washington post or the LA times. Right. So it’s, it is. I I’m worried, just not just personally for my job, but the reason I do my job is because I believe deeply and abiding only in the power of journalism to make the world a better place. And we’ve all seen what can happen when the news source that people go to is not real journalism, where people are contemplating and wondering about literally every word in a story. We’re not just spewing somebody’s, friend’s Facebook meme into a story. We are trying to convey the truth or near as close as we can get to the truth. That’s hard, especially during this pandemic.

Speaker 3 (00:24:51):

But you know, we are doing that every day from a variety of different sources. And we can talk about nursing homes and how difficult that’s been, especially when you can’t physically be in them. That a lot of people don’t feel safe doing in-person interviews, but that, you know, what we, what we do. And I think what real journalists all over the world are doing is that much more valuable at the same time that many of us are finding it harder to find real value in terms of monetary, which unfortunately is the current model. We’ve got to find a way to get people, to click on our stories by our online subscription. It’s tough, it’s tough. They’re much, much smarter people than me at our paper and all over the country, trying to figure this out. And if anybody had no solution, I’d love to hear it.

Speaker 2 (00:25:37):

I mean, really what? So I have a solution for you. No, I don’t. I have a couple of ideas that I’ve communicated before. And one is one is that, you know, you all have such expertise in reporting, and let’s say you have, you know, for lack of numbers, let’s 2020 reporters that are just really putting out great content, right? And then you have just one person on digital, that’s it, or maybe half person. And right now your success is, is basically what’s your digital strategy. You know, that’s where it’s going. And what I find is many of the local newspapers don’t have a real digital strategy. I remember talking with one of your former colleagues about I couldn’t find a place to store story for client and I couldn’t get it on Google. I was like, just Googling the title of the story name.

Speaker 2 (00:26:33):

I’m like, why can’t I get this? Because what I always have my clients do is when we get a new story and if they have their own they’re owned media, so they have social media, they have webs, you know, a website I’m like, look, you know, you paid me to help you with PR. And then you’re just going to let this story just be there in the Google sphere, promote it on your owned media. Let’s run an ad on Facebook and guess what? That benefits the Post-Gazette too, because that’s the story everyone’s clicking on. Let’s do that. I remember one time I couldn’t get, I couldn’t find the story. And it was because the reporter was required to enter it into the content management system with the mass head and didn’t know how to do it. Right. So in another words, the lack of digital infrastructure that this was a couple of years ago, maybe it’s changed prevented, prevented the ability to get that story out there digitally. But Hey, you know, I wish you guys lots of luck. And the other thing is how, how can, you know, newspapers, local newspapers, you know, work together on some kind of lobbying effort, right? Once you figure out what needs to be changed, how is there any kind of organizational structure that exists, do you think?

Speaker 3 (00:27:51):

Well, historically there, there has been for a century. I learned this when I worked at the associated press, the associated press was originally formed to fight back against first radio, which was stealing newspapers content and then TV, which was stealing newspapers content. And at a time I was told when I started working there the AP was looking into doing that too. I don’t know that they ever did fall follow through on that. But it would seem that all newspapers even those that are doing really well right now, like the New York times, Washington post have an interest in that and not having their content stolen, not having social media platforms benefit without providing a benefit to the newspapers. And I’m using the word newspapers, right? And w which by itself is already almost an archaic term. I wish it wasn’t. I, you know, I miss my morning routine. We’re down to two days a week here. I miss my morning paper routine. I still love paper that that’s never gonna change, but, you know, I, I read probably 75% of the content I read in a given day online.

Speaker 3 (00:29:08):

And that’s only on the days where there is a paper paper, because I get the Post-Gazette in the morning on now Thursdays and Sundays, the rest of the time, I’m online a hundred percent just like everybody else, if you want to read the post cause that, although I read the PG reader version a lot which looks like the paper paper and then you can kind of flip and still see the same you know, your, I can follow the content.

Speaker 2 (00:29:32):

I like knowing where a story is placed is right. For me, it helps me to frame what I should read and a given amount of I have.

Speaker 3 (00:29:42):

Right. Right. And that’s, that’s the idea of using the PG reader. Although, you know, people can also tell the way that we have our websites set up just like most newspapers do online. You know, we try to put the most important stories. So those that we believe have the biggest front and center with a photo. It’s the first, if you’re on the tablet, like I am right now, it’s the first box of three or four stories that we have, that’ll have a photo and then down below photos to draw your eye. So there is still some of that, but you know, is it as easy as opening a paper, pulling up the front page, reading the first three graphs on the front page and then wandering through the rest of it? Maybe, maybe for some people who don’t know different. I still, I still love the format.

Speaker 2 (00:30:30):

I have one more broad news question that I’d love to ask guests what, especially guests that are, you know, renowned journalists, what’s your news routine in the morning? How do you stay balanced when you’re consuming news these days?

Speaker 3 (00:30:46):

It’s hard, it’s hard. There’s so much content to go to. But you know, I, I read through the, you know, scroll through the front pages, if you will, online of five papers every day, I start with the Post-Gazette. I go down through the whole front page online on those days when it’s online. I worked my way through New York times, the Washington post, the Chicago Tribune and the Beaver County times you know, the second biggest, I believe around here next to the trip review. And I read through the trip review to and I have subscriptions to all of those. With the exception of the trip, I had a subscription to the trip. It was just it lapsed. And then I started getting like weird letters from them saying that I owed them $75 because I hadn’t signed up for it.

Speaker 3 (00:31:39):

So I’ve never gone back, but you know, we need, and I, I shouldn’t make light of that. We need more competition. I love having competition, every reporter in this town and every other town, I want the Tribune review to thrive. I went to Beaver County times to thrive the Washington paper. The more, the more competition there is in news, the better it is for everybody, for us, it gets us up earlier, makes us work harder for the reader. You have multiple sources to go to different reporters maybe slightly different takes, but hopefully on the important points agreement on what the basic facts of a story on we might’ve been interviewed different people. But you can go to different stories. So, and, you know, like on nursing homes the one big story I did recently was Brighton rehabilitation.

Speaker 3 (00:32:29):

You can find similar stories in the Beaver County times the Beaver County and an online newspaper. The Tribune review that we we’ve all done, our are hard, take long, a big, long story project on Brighton rehabilitation wellness center. I think you will find a really good content on that, on all of those sites about Brighton rehabilitation wellness center. You’ll find, I think different points made about what led to the problems there, but I think you’ll find agreement that there were problems there, right? That it wasn’t an illusion. It wasn’t it wasn’t just something that stemmed from the government’s problems that, that certainly may have contributed to it. But I think that’s, what’s really great, at least for now all those institutions still exist. The trip, us Beaver County times, Beaver County, and all four have done work on that.

Speaker 3 (00:33:25):

I, you know, I hope we can all thrive in this environment. Like it was, I mean, we have to go back a ways define when everybody was thriving in paper, you know, probably 20 years now. But I think that really helped. I think that really helped the policymakers get interested in this because not just because Sean Hamill at the Post-Gazette that was writing about it, but others that the trip review and the Beaver County times that’s really where a lot of that sort of momentum around nursing home regulations around problems that brightened that illuminated larger issues came from. Because I think people who needed to understand that issue got to see many points of view from all the reporting done on it.

Speaker 2 (00:34:09):

Well, and I would, I would go to say, you know, in my experience as press secretary dealing with the media for seven, eight years, I remember when there was a lot of competition when I got a call from 11 reporters every day. Imagine that 11, because TV had a beat reporter for city hall still, you know, talking 2008 nine and the competition among, you know, Rich Lord and Jeremy Boren, Tribune Review, Post-Gazette, and Andy Gasmeyer and John Dell, like all that competition led to competition within policy makers and elected officials to enact better policies, to respond and be proactive with regard to investigative stories on building inspection or plowing streets. What I see now, because I’m still tied in a bit with the city. You know, I still have a few clients that maybe are developers. You know, what I see now is because there’s not much competition, there’s just, there’s less reporting on what’s happening in city hall and then there’s less accountability and then there’s less elected official competition. Then there’s less policy-making you can sort of see it happen. Some would say that’s good, you know, let the mayor be mayor and and have, have, have less accountability. But I, for one, don’t think it’s fair. I tell Tim McNulty, I’m like you have it so

Speaker 1 (00:35:38):

Much easier than I had it.

Speaker 3 (00:35:41):

No, I, I, I think your point’s well taken the I mean, you can just see it in any daily press conference there. There are fewer people there on a daily basis and that’s, that is really at the heart of the struggle for any media institution right now. Like because the, the meat and potatoes of newspaper reporting really, and, and really the start of probably all of the best investigative reports is daily reporting. And unfortunately daily reporting can be often mundane, seemingly it’s not mundane if the topic that the beat reporters writing about affects you directly, but in terms of you know, a daily story come in at a city hall about something where everybody is engaged on, you know, like, Oh, we’re going to build a new stadium, you know, something where everybody gets excited that that doesn’t happen every day.

Speaker 3 (00:36:36):

In fact, most days that’s probably not the story, you know, that broader, big picture issue, but I’m here to say as a beat reporter, long, long time beat reporter covering like local city government schools zoning board meetings, I’ve sat in on for hours and hours on end. You know, that is the heart of, as one of my great journalism professors said, what makes America great? And what makes America work? You have to have eyes on the mundane, the daily occurrence of government. And from that all good things are created many, many stories every investigative story that I’ve done at the Post-Gazette and everyone prior to that started out of, or grew out of daily beat reporting in one way or the other you often stumble across it just in trying to figure out one fact in one story that has nothing to do necessarily with some bigger, larger story that you might spend months on.

Speaker 3 (00:37:43):

You know, I spent three months on Brighton, the investigative story we did in an eight chapter story that came out in November at the end, but that’s, that began as really just kind of beat reporting really. Right. they have an outbreak there and, and across time I did stories about other nursing homes that had outbreaks and other issues related to that related to what the department of health was doing for the state, what Allegheny department health was doing locally. And then you just, you track it over time and over time you realize, Oh, there is something bigger going on here that is worth illuminating. And that, you know, I mean, that just doesn’t happen in a smaller newsroom necessarily. Or it’s an even bigger struggle than it was at, at the Post-Gazette for them to give me, you know, from August, till November to work on that story and not right. I think I wrote maybe two other stories in that time. I mean, that’s almost unheard of right now for most reporters, it’s just, yeah. And we were blessed to be able to do that

Speaker 2 (00:38:48):

Hats off to Stan. Right. I mean, that stands leadership too, right? Yeah.

Speaker 3 (00:38:52):

Yeah. Yeah. And I mean, it was, it was, it’s just hard. I mean, it’s always hard really when you have the beat report and you want to take them off the beat and dedicate them to something in the Postgres that has been doing that forever. David Shridman made that a point. If somebody found a story that was worth digging into, he would send them running towards that and give them time to do it. But every newspaper right now, every media source right now on the TV stations, I mean, TV over the years has done great investigative work, but I can’t imagine how much harder it would be for them to say, okay, let’s have this news crew, which is usually what three people, right. A producer, a cameraman, and a reporter to spend three months on a story.

Speaker 2 (00:39:34):

It doesn’t happen in local TV anymore.

Speaker 3 (00:39:37):

It’s got to, there is some of that. You know, I think Andy Shannon’s done some great work over the years that I I don’t know how he does it. He scrambled so well, and he’s got a newspaper background too, so,

Speaker 2 (00:39:50):

Okay. Okay. Let me tell you, cause I I’ve been involved in some of these stories does, but he’s, doesn’t have the time to really get the full story in these. Oh no. I want them to be very one-sided and important information, but he’s it because of that, you know, one and a half minutes segment now versus three and a half minutes, you know, now we’re going to find what’s most salacious and what’s going to get us ratings.

Speaker 3 (00:40:12):

Right. And they have the added constraint of having to always have, or nearly always have somebody on camera. Right? I mean, so TV news reporters job is that much harder than mine. Like I can, I can interview a hundred people and maybe only have pictures or, you know, in the paper for three of them necessarily where they’re willing to be portrait, let alone be interviewed on camera. Right. I mean, that makes it that much harder.

Speaker 2 (00:40:39):

And that’s the TV, that’s the TV animal. I, I can’t get through to some clients about they, they wonder why the story happened. It was so unfair. And I said, well, you wouldn’t go on camera. You wouldn’t get anybody on camera. They had a fill that they needed somebody on camera. You wouldn’t do it. You wouldn’t allow anyone to do it. What do you think is going to happen? Right. But, but, but anyways, so Brighton let’s, I want to dive into this because what a remarkable series you did on Brighton, which has led to change, change already statewide you know, for our audience, how many beds, how many? Okay, so Brighton is a nursing facility in Western PA and it’s one of the largest, right? How many beds

Speaker 3 (00:41:25):

It is the third largest in the state. It has what is the latest count? Five more than 500 beds. Am I remembering that 495 beds? Yeah. But it’s the third largest in the state. It was formerly County run and County owned until just now going on seven years ago. And which made it very typical of formerly government run nursing homes. They were these very big institutions who just like Brighton grew over time as the need and the customers warranted. And then unlike Allegheny County and a few others Beaver County ran the same problem with so many other County governments did. They were just costing way too much. They could not make them break even. And it was costing them a couple million dollars a year to keep that place open.

Speaker 2 (00:42:15):

The first problem here is sort of, is it the federal formula for reimbursement when you look, when you really peel back those layers?

Speaker 3 (00:42:22):

Yeah, no, that is, that is the that is the meat and potatoes for nursing homes is federal reimbursement. 70% just started that bigger again yesterday 70% of nursing home revenue comes from Medicare and Medicaid, primarily Medicaid. Brighton has an even higher percentage North of 80%, although they had driven it down, it was even higher than 90% when the County owned it. And for I’m sure most of your viewers realize what Medicaid means when it comes to nursing and Medicaid, when you’re being, having your stay there, pay for by Medicaid, that means you don’t have any money. You don’t have any assets. Your home has gone. Your bank accounts been emptied. You might have social security and even then you need the nursing home takes 90% of that every month on top of Medicaid, reimbursing you reimbursing the, the nursing home for additional care based on how sick you are, what your quote unquote acuity is.

Speaker 3 (00:43:26):

They have a, a rating that determines nursing homes reimbursement based on how sick, the people who live there are and how much care they have to be provided. So yes, they are. Nursing homes are with rare exception and very rare exceptions are very, very focused on federal reimbursement. And that by itself perhaps has caused many of the problems that have been illuminated not only through our series, but through a lawsuit that was filed against Brighton. And in other lawsuits in years past that were filed by the state attorney general against other nursing home operators who pointed out many of the flaws in the system, many of which still exist, you know, is the pandemic going to fix these things? So that we don’t have those flaws. I don’t know. A lot of people seem to think that this is really illuminated things that people know,

Speaker 2 (00:44:18):

This is what people need to open their eyes up to. And it just, I mean, it’s very, if this is an emotional issue, because literally we’re all going to die. One day, most of us hopefully are going die old. We’re going to grow old and let’s face it the way most Americans take care of themselves. You’re not going to die fast. Right? You’re going to be in a nursing facility. You’re literally going there and in many cases to end your life and wow, I mean the vulnerability these, these residents have, and to not have accountability as to what is going on inside these nursing homes, that’s just an Intune human injustice. And COVID, you know, the light’s been, been, been shown so to speak. So, so is it the case that because of the federal reimbursement structure that the sicker these residents or patients are the more money the nursing home gets? I mean, is that yes. Yes. So the incentive is stay sick.

Speaker 3 (00:45:27):

Well, it’s not that, but what w especially the lawsuit that was filed against Brighton showed is that Brighton over time under the private owners has decided intentionally to take sicker and sicker residents under the County. The County seemed to take basically anybody who couldn’t find anywhere else to go. It was under the county’s ownership known as the, the home of last resort. You might want to go to a swankier nursing home, like run by Concordia or St. Barnabas, two other big non-profits around here. But maybe they didn’t have any beds available for you because many of these facilities non-profits and for-profits alike have a cap. Like they won’t tell you what it is, but a set cap, most of the ones that make money. See, I apologize for that. Seem to have about a 70% cap on the percentage of people around there who can be on Medicaid and that’s because Medicaid only pays X, but the companies want to make Y

Speaker 2 (00:46:40):

And they want private payers.

Speaker 3 (00:46:41):

Right. Sorry about that.

Speaker 2 (00:46:44):

That’s okay. So, I mean, don’t worry, people are used to this. So, so again, social injustice, right? The more poor you are, your end of life, you’re going to most likely receive lesser care. And if you’re attracting, if your model is like Concord or St. Barnabas to attract private payers, then you know, you’re, you know, it leaves those who are less sick. I don’t know what I’m trying to say, but it, so there are two models, basically either I’m a St. Barnabas and I want the private payers or a comprehensive CareTech facility. And I want the sickest, there are, there are two different models here you’ve seen.

Speaker 3 (00:47:30):

Well, yeah, w I think it’s even more stark than that. I mean, it really is the places like w you know, the, the few County run homes like Allegheny County has three nursing homes and maybe a few non-profits that are somehow may be able to make it work where they do try to take more and more poor patients. And then there’s the for-profits, which are driving it in a complete, nother direction, because Medicaid pays so little. And even then with Medicaid, like, so again, comprehensive, they, they turn that facility around, into a moneymaker in just one year after they bought it from, from the County one, they drove down the percentage of Medicaid residents, and then two, they started gaining reimbursement from other Medicare avenues that they hadn’t before they created a, a rehab unit it’s called the Grove. It’s the part of the building that’s at the back of the building and rehab.

Speaker 3 (00:48:36):

And this is something that’s become very, very common not only in for-profits, but in increasingly nonprofit homes, they put a rehab unit in there specifically to drive revenue, and you can see it really, really starkly in the numbers for Brighton. Very, very quickly Medicaid numbers come down and very, very quickly Medicare and Medicaid rehab reimbursement goes up. And that by itself really quickly changed the revenue formula. Then on the expense side, they’ve very intentionally and rapidly changed the amount of money that they were spending on nursing staff nurses, AIDS, registered nurses, licensed practical nurses, and what they did because they have a union contract and they, they couldn’t pay less to those full-time union workers. They got rid of many of those, or let many of those go who are retiring and never filled it. And they replaced it with what they call agency employees.

Speaker 3 (00:49:38):

These are part-time typically part-time, they may even work full-time hours, but they work for a quote unquote agency that the company hires to provide people to come and work there. Primarily among the nurses aid staff. And it, I looked at the largest nursing homes across the state, and there were only two others that had anything approaching what Brighton has in terms of percentage Brighton went from having almost no agency staff when the County ran it to having 20% in any given year, since they bought it. And that is an incredible turnaround. And you can see the amount of money they spent on the nursing staff drop precipitously after they bought it.

Speaker 4 (00:50:23):

We’re talking to people that have, has don’t have aren’t as credentialed.

Speaker 3 (00:50:29):

No, not necessarily. I mean, when it comes to nurses AIDS themselves to have to have a right, you have to be a cert a nurses aid. You have to have had some training just to be called that. But the difference is one they’re not union, so they don’t have all the other benefits that come with it. They don’t have a set salary. So when they’re hiring these temporary workers through agency, it’s, it’s incumbent upon the agency to determine how much they’re paying them. It’s not up to Brighton. So Brighton might go around to all the various agencies and say, Hey, we need 20 nurses aides, and we’re willing to pay.

Speaker 2 (00:51:07):

You should do a story. You should do a story into these agencies, because I was talking with the client about these agencies in regard to, I was asking a question like, where, where do you, where do you guys get your referrals? How do people find you? And they in agencies, agencies are doing referrals and they’re staffing. It seems like they have a lot of control and who’s running these agencies.

Speaker 3 (00:51:35):

Yeah. They’re, they’re private companies by themselves and they are, they are fascinating how they work and where they’re finding people. And

Speaker 2 (00:51:44):

There you go.

Speaker 3 (00:51:46):

Well, and so the question during the pandemic is, well, well, why does that matter? Right. And what role possibly could they have played in creating the problems that occurred at Brighton in one of the, you know, the worst and deadliest nursing home outbreaks in the country during the pandemic and what people who worked inside both full-timers and part-timers told me was over time, especially in the early stages of the pandemic, w because so many staffers, either outright quit or temporary staffers refuse to work there, which is the right. When you work for most agencies, you have a right to say, I don’t want to work there because of the outbreak. The agencies that Brighton was hiring had to go further and further a field and getting new people. Who’d never worked there. And they were coming up in droves. So many of the residents told me, and in their families that while early on you might’ve seen more local agency staff, you know, people from Pennsylvania, even into Ohio, West Virginia, as they got into April and may, as the pandemic was raging and Brighton, they started seeing on the cell phone calls that they would get, many of the nurses aides would do FaceTime calls with the residents because they couldn’t get in the buildings to see family.

Speaker 3 (00:53:03):

And they started to see area codes from like Louisiana, Texas down South further and further away. And the way that manifests itself was they had new people in there almost every week when this was raging. And at the same time that things were going badly in terms of the infections in cases and deaths, CDC was changing or increasing protocols in some cases day by day and week by week. So trying to educate that entire staff, including, I don’t know what the number is. I mean, some people told me half the staff at one point was agency. I don’t know if that’s true. But it was certainly North of 20%, which is what it had been in years prior. So to try to get all those people re-educated every week seems to approve, to have been daunting, if not impossible, because they were, they were knocked during state inspections three times for problems with infection prevention protocols.

Speaker 3 (00:53:59):

Those are the protocols that determine, like how you clean things, as basic as how you clean things. When you change gloves, when you change the gowns that you’re wearing, when you, you know, how you wear. And when you wear goggles, when you’re in patient’s room, I mean, one of the, one of the most egregious violations that the state found was this very now, I think infamous incident where while an inspector was in the room with a nurses aid, the nurse’s aid was in a positive patients room. Somebody who had COVID and was going to take their oxygen level, using a pulse oximeter and take their temperature. And when they got in there realized, Oh, the bed pan was full, picked up the bed. Pan walked down the hall to a janitor’s closet, emptied it, hopefully cleaned it, but came back, put it back in the room, never changed her gloves and then proceeded to take the oxygen and the temperature of that positive COVID patient then walked across the hall to a negative resident’s room and never changed the gloves gown or anything else. And it just, and then people that I talked to there was one agency staff who I spoke to, who, who quit after one day, she was so appalled at what she saw. She, she said that she was there during this inspection. It was a five day inspection when the state inspectors were there in may,

Speaker 2 (00:55:30):

After your story broke the inspection, I’m sorry, this isn’t, this inspection was after your SU your story broke, right? Yeah.

Speaker 3 (00:55:39):

We, well, she had called me after she quit. But I was working on the longer story and we finally reported what she had to say in our longer series, because we hadn’t seen, because the way the state works, you don’t get the inspection results until 40 days after it’s completed. So I believe that was the, into the, I want to say the end of the first week in may, so that re inspection report wasn’t released until mid June. But everything she said was, was validated by this inspection report. She described staffers in the building coming down onto Flores, shouting the inspectors are coming, the inspectors are coming, and then everybody would put on their gowns. Like they were supposed to have any way and gown up. And then the second the inspectors left the floor, they would rip them off because, and she said that there was one staffer who declared that she didn’t need to wear any of that because she, she already had COVID and it wasn’t a big deal. But you know, this is repeated in the inspection reports to just sort of day by day by day violations.

Speaker 2 (00:56:50):

So a complete lack of leadership there, then a complete lack of leadership.

Speaker 3 (00:56:54):

Well, and a lack of day-to-day training. And you realize like the training. So the director of nursing is in charge of training and then has RNs, or LPMs on each floor who are supposed to oversee what happens on those floors. So, yeah, like, you know, from so many staffers, like the whole hierarchy within the building, when it was being overwhelmed in a room, remember this place already had problems. I mean, the previous three years, the inspections just got worse and worse and worse as they whittled away the full-time staff even more in the time that they owned it. And as many, even the full-timer said by the time that pandemic hit, I mean, it was just piling bad after bad, after bad. It just overwhelmed the facility, you know, because ideally, I mean, one of the things that they should have been doing early on was isolating people.

Speaker 3 (00:57:44):

Well, isolating people means you have to take somebody who might not be mobile, pick them up, take all this stuff out of the room and move them to another room. And then if they’re positive, right, you had to have cleaned the room. They were in to make sure it was disinfected. That’s that bites. I mean, that’s hours of work, hours of work, which when people are quitting in left and right, and refusing to come into work because they fear they’re going to get sick. You can imagine the kind of management crunch, the numbers, crunched that was coming on, they needed more people to help do something as basic as move somebody to a new room at the same time, they’re having to care for an increasing number of sick people. I mean, caring for sick elderly people is labor intensive work. I mean, these facilities have, you know, a place like Brighton has hundreds and hundreds of employees.

Speaker 3 (00:58:36):

And then to, to lose a significant portion of them, you know, they’ve had hundreds of people there, you know, by, by June early June, three quarters of the building had tested positive. They had 460 people there when the outbreak began by June three quarters of them tested positive, and at least 82 of them had died. And the figure is probably higher than 82, because Brighton just like so many other nursing homes in March, they couldn’t get anybody to test the facility. So they didn’t even know how many people in the building in March really had COVID. And there were probably people who died in March who probably had COVID and probably contributed to their death. Unbelievable. I

Speaker 2 (00:59:22):

Mean, it’s all just unbelievable when I listened to, you know, talk about this. I, I just, I mean, you, you see the attorney general for the state of Pennsylvania, you know, Shapiro he’s, he’s starting, you can see he’s taking this seriously, right. With a couple of recent indictments, but you wonder how these things are really going to change. How many brightens do you think are out there in Pennsylvania? I mean, our, I mean, Brian’s, Brian’s one of the arguably the worst case of, of COVID spread leading to death in any nursing facility in the United States from a percentage point, but how many as, how many Brightons are out there

Speaker 3 (01:00:07):

As the experts I’ve talked to across the country told me there they’re probably brightens in every state in the country. Unfortunately. Now one of the things that Pennsylvania benefits from, and probably suffers from is that believe it, or not too many people who, who disagree with how Dr. Levine ran the department of health, Pennsylvania is probably reported more data than most States. You know, they, they were kinda knocked for not getting the facilities to report earlier than they did. It was mid may when they finally started making facilities report data publicly. But there are some States that never did and refused to make that data available. They would only report it in the aggregate. So we, we probably have a better picture of how bad it was here in Pennsylvania, I think in most of the 50 States.

Speaker 3 (01:01:01):

So I mean, even still, and I have huge questions about the data as it exists now. And we, we, we could talk about that forever. I spent way too much time over the last three weeks, trying to figure out just how many people actually died in nursing homes versus personal care homes and assisted living homes. And that by itself has been a nightmare and it’s still not clear to me and I still don’t have good numbers, but I think that’s probably true in every state. And this is something we’re going to, we’re going to see research on for years, for years, if not decades, it’s going to take you know, hopefully we’re through this in the next year. I mean really through it where we’re all back to, you know, giving hugs to our friends and family when we see them outside the home and eating the restaurants, but also so, so that nursing home residents can go back to having activities in their nursing homes or outside the nursing homes and going to concerts like so many of these nursing homes provided things that made their lives livable instead of being locked in a room, but to get there after we get there, they’re gonna, there’s going to be some significant look, backs, really going back and getting the real numbers in all these facilities, finding out what worked and what didn’t, because we have a pretty good sense of what worked and what didn’t, but there’s still a lot of pushback on some of those answers.

Speaker 3 (01:02:27):

You know, just one example is you know, there’s been a lot of debate in recent weeks about the state policy that said nursing homes had to accept back positive COVID patients. Dr. Levine was questioned about this at her hearing when she was up for the deputy secretary for the federal government. And there’s a state legislative committee that’s looking into this it’s not, there is, there is no, there is no study that shows either that that policy did contribute to nursing home deaths or did not B C probably because it’s going to be so difficult to figure out how something like that impacted cases or deaths. It sounds like it might have, right. I mean, forcing nursing homes to take back residents who were positive, right. Inherently, you would think like played some role, right? Because having more people in the building with COVID would be a bad thing because more people would get sick.

Speaker 3 (01:03:29):

But that policy also included the condition that when somebody tested positive, you had to isolate them anyway. Right. They were supposed to be unemployed. They weren’t supposed to be effecting the building. They’re supposed to be in a room that only people went in with full gowns and everything, and that they weren’t gonna spread it around because they were isolated. Well, that was true when they came back to. Right. and you weren’t, you didn’t have to take any resident who came into, wanted to come into the nursing home, who was positive. You just had to take back your residents who came back to the nursing home from the hospital. And in almost every case, you knew they were positive before they left. There are some cases where people were sick, were taken to the hospital and were tested there, but at Brighton, as you know, and other nursing homes by certainly by April there, they were able to get tests on, on the residents.

Speaker 3 (01:04:29):

And so they knew who had it and who didn’t by, in Brighton by… Mid April, they had tested everybody in the building. So like what role that played at Brighton, what role that played at other nursing homes? I don’t think anybody really knows. But if the policy was followed correctly, right. Perfectly, which is impossible, it’s impossibly perfect. In these circumstances, it shouldn’t of have affected the nursing homes, especially a place like Brighton, which had, you know, again had only 460 residents and had, you know, dozens of other bedrooms available in that building because they weren’t full. But this, you know, this infectious disease was so hard to contain in these buildings. You know, could you seal that room, prevent any of it from getting out, from getting on any of the staff members gowns from getting on any of the staff members, goggles, their hands, their gloves that has proven to be really, really difficult.

Speaker 2 (01:05:32):

And, and do you, do you suspect, and I’ve seen a couple of, of nursing facilities nationwide that have closed down because reputation management, you know, they lot had a lot of COVID deaths. There’s a lot of reporting on it. Nobody wanted to send their loved one there. For a case like Brighton Ray for a facility like Brighton that has had so much crap happened, right. And media attention what does their future look like? Are these people going to still be able to get patients? I wonder if their census has decreased since your report?

Speaker 3 (01:06:14):

It actually has increased over time because, you know, as we said in the story Brighton, even though it’s not County run Brighton, for many, many of its residents still remains the home of last resort, you know, probably a third of the families. And I spoke to probably 50 different families who had residents or had loved ones who lived there as residents, either who had died or who were still there. Probably a third of them told me some variation of the story of, well, you know, we had already, we had tried to get into three other homes or four or five. And we couldn’t why, because they didn’t want to take a Medicaid patient. Right. or because of their acuity. Right. They had, they had so many comorbidities that for some homes, they aren’t set up for the kind of high level of illness that many of the residents of Brighton had where they not only had dementia, but they had a heart condition or they had diabetes, or they had a liver condition, you know, all these other factors there just aren’t and there probably will not be in the foreseeable future, any more homes, more willing to take these kinds of residents and you can see it in the numbers.

Speaker 3 (01:07:33):

Brighton voluntarily stopped taking residents. I believe as early as mid April, they won’t give me a definitive date, but sometime this fall, when they kind of self declared that they were through the outbreak they started taking residents again. And you could see week by week by week, their census going up to three, four more people a week, because there are many homes that just are not going to give up beds for many of the kinds of residents who lived at Brighton, which is real sad, sad state of affairs. And you, nobody, nobody out there is building nursing homes for Medicaid residents right now, they are, they’re building homes based on a model that maybe 60 or 70% Medicaid residents and then the rest private day.

Speaker 2 (01:08:20):

Well, I think we need elected officials to really step up here and that it’s this it’s, this is a, this is a complete travesty in the more I learn about it, the more I just, I think I’m disgusted. It’s just, your reporting has been, has been so incredible. And, you know, I, I’m sure you’re working on more stories related to Brighton. And, you know, I remember when I worked for the mayor and there was a unique investigative story, it typically would lead to action from elected officials like Luke Ravenstahl saying we’re going to sue UPMC, which would keep the story going and keep things happening. So I’m, I’m hopeful that Josh Shapiro, our attorney general and other elected officials in Beaver County you know, the commissioners, the state representatives will keep this, you know, like let’s get to the root of the problem. And it sounds like it’s this whole Medicaid, you know, reimbursement situation, it’s the agencies because if your comprehensive management and they have what 13, they run 13 facilities in the state. Ish,

Speaker 3 (01:09:33):

I think 15 right now.

Speaker 2 (01:09:35):

So if you run that many, like, and you’re still going to your speed, because look, you have a pot of people that nobody wants the Medicaid people. You’re still, you’re still going to be in demand. Why change? Right. Why improve? Why change no incentive.

Speaker 3 (01:09:54):

And there, there are discussions on this right now you know, in part, because of that kind of pressure that you mentioned, I know Beaver County commissioners have been really active and pushing for changes at Brighton. The state reps and senators have been concerned about this coming out of Beaver County, the congressional representatives our us senators. I think this is on everybody’s radar now. But whether or not that can lead to action that pushes back against some of the basic tenants of how the system is set up that allowed this to exist in the first place. I mean, that is, that is a harder question. I mean, cause you have so many forces at, at hand here, right. You know, there, there are huge advocacy groups on every side of this issue. People who represent seniors but also really large and powerful organizations that represent the nursing home operators.

Speaker 3 (01:10:50):

And then for profit versus nonprofit we increasingly have for-profit nursing home operators, not non-profit, I mean, that has switched over the last 30 years pretty dramatically. And there were a lot of people who think that, you know, they should try to encourage County governments to do it. So it’s not a for-profit enterprise. But you know, we saw what happened in County that wasn’t that long ago, 2014, they couldn’t make it work. They couldn’t find a way through it to make, make it so that it wasn’t a drag on their own budget. But I know there are people in Beaver County who are, have a little a seller’s remorse, right. They think that if they hadn’t sold the County nursing home, maybe this wouldn’t have happened or maybe it wouldn’t have happened as badly, but I can find you just as many people who say, look at what happened at all the other nursing homes around the state. I mean, how was Brighton going to be any different given what happened in so many other places.

Speaker 2 (01:11:46):

Wow. Wow. Well, we’d love to have you back on to talk about your next future investigative series. And we’re going to be watching this. I act like I’m not a news source, but I personally will be watching what is happening with your reporting into, into any senior facilities. Because I always, I’ve always been most concerned as, as a citizen with how our government takes care of our most vulnerable populations and that’s kids, youths, and seniors. Right. And I, for a long time, I was in the board of children, youth and families CYF. I was just disgusted by so many things I saw and couldn’t change anything. And I, you know, didn’t stay on the board because it wasn’t popular. But I, I see so many parallels with, you know, you know, well, we can’t really well. It’s just, you know, no, no, we’re, this is not what we’re, we’re- as, as humans, we have to stick out more for people that can’t stick up for them.

Speaker 1 (01:12:50):

So you’re doing that for us.


On Crisis: Episode 11

On Crisis: Episode 11

feat. Michael Marr | Former NY Governor Press Secretary Michael Marr joins Joanna Doven to talk about his experience working through crises in corporate America and on Capitol Hill.THE "ON CRISIS" PODCAST: EPISODE 11Michael Marr serves as the Director of Government...

On Crisis: Episode 10

On Crisis: Episode 10

Joanna Doven is joined by renowned author and Wall Street Journal reporter Kris Maher to hear about his new book on a West Virginia water crisis and to learn about his mindset when reporting on crises.

On Crisis – Episode 9

On Crisis – Episode 9

Joanna Doven talks with Jeff Hahn, the Owner and Principal of Hahn Public, to talk his new book, why universities tend to be so bad at crisis communications, and his 5 step method to crisis response.

On Crisis: Episode 7

On Crisis: Episode 7

Billie Jo Weyant, the Executive Director of a small nonprofit, discusses the soaring need for abuse and sexual assault victim services during COVID-19, despite limited resources and diminishing public funding.



Pittsburgh Public Information Officer Chris Togneri talks about how he transformed his office’s social media channels into a newsroom, social media’s potential to allow people to make their own news, and more.



Aurora’s leadership talks about the company’s work with self-driving vehicles, the long-term communications mindset, and why aggressive communications on the company’s “safety first” commitment is paramount.



Allison Bentley talks about applying her lessons-learned at an international retail company to help differentiate a new startup in an evolving industry from its many competitors.



Top legal mind who represents dozens of school districts, Ira Weiss, discusses the importance of having a robust school district communications plan, especially right now.



Senior Managing Director of a large independent advisory firm, Mike Shebak, shares how they pivoted daily client communications during the COVID-19 crisis.



Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter Rich Lord talks about the changing media landscape and what that means for managing news media during crises.

Crisis Communications Podcast Art Joanna Doven


Hosted by Joanna Doven, Premo CEO and one of the youngest big city mayoral press secretaries in the United States, On Crisis is a podcast that delves into a daunting challenge that all sectors inevitably face: how to skillfully navigate a crisis. Joined by guest speakers of all industries, Doven takes you “inside the crisis,” discussing real-time decision-making and providing helpful takeaways that can be applied to any business plan.

New episodes airing regularly. Check back soon! 


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