Guest Columns

Operators are not 'blasé' about negative stories

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Michael Wylie
Michael Wylie

McKnight's Editorial Director John O'Connor's article, “Keeping your friends close and the media closer,” takes aim at the long-term care profession for our public relations efforts. Here's what he got wrong.

As a proud employee of Genesis HealthCare and the chairman of the largest association representing long-term care providers in the country, I can assure you that operators are not “blasé” about negative stories. The steady stream of negative coverage and the misrepresentation of the profession in the media are a source of concern for providers from coast to coast. The media coverage of our work hurts employee morale and raises concerns for families.

It's something that we as providers spend time combatting, with limited success. I don't agree with O'Connor's assertion that we see the media as having a “hate-filled agenda.” At the same time, O'Connor acknowledges that coverage of our profession is “consistently unfavorable.” In truth, most reporters are uninterested in positive stories that highlight the exceptional care provided by our facilities.

Last year, in the aftermath of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma from Florida to Texas, hundreds of long-term care facilities were successfully evacuated and residents were safely relocated with little disruption to their care. Employees spent many nights at work, sleeping on the floor, often choosing to take care of our residents rather than returning home and assisting their own families. Media coverage of the heroic efforts of our staff and facilities was largely absent*, instead focusing nearly exclusively on one terrible tragedy. It's this kind of one-sided coverage that leaves the public with a skewed view of our profession and the work we do.

The ideal role of the media is to provide information. There is no question that public relations is tremendously important. However, the role of our providers is first and foremost to provide exceptional care to the people in our facilities. In a time when many companies are struggling just to keep their doors open, there are few resources to spend on public relations.

Media have tremendous power to shape opinions. Rather than putting the burden on skilled nursing providers, I challenge the news media, along with other institutions, to be fair and accurate, and report the good news, too. In the meantime, our providers will keep doing what they do best – providing quality healthcare for millions of people every day.

Michael Wylie is the chairman of the American Health Care Association and Vice President of Development at Genesis HealthCare.

* EDITOR'S NOTE: There were, in fact, many instances of heroic efforts and extraordinary caregiving that providers delivered in the wake of recent hurricanes and storms. As a business-to-business (b2b) publisher, we agree with Mr. Wylie that the mainstream media would do well to focus more on these events. If you want an uplifting experience, review these optimistic observations and inspiring activities regarding long-term care professionals and stakeholders after the storms. McKnight's stories such as thisthisthisthisthisthisthis, thisthis, and this. Good stuff, indeed.


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Guest columns are written by long-term care industry experts, ranging from academics and thought leaders to administrators and CEOs.