Enron-itis Breaks Out
By Richard L. Peck, Editor
By now most of us are sick of the Enron story and others like it. The pathetic travesty of corporate bigwigs fattening themselves at the company trough needs no further elaboration here. I bring it up only because some whiff of it seems to have transferred over to the nursing home field; that odor is the smell of rotten eggs being smeared over an entire industry.

Which leads us to U.S. News and World Report. That esteemed magazine recently published an analysis of long-term care called “The New Math of Old Age.” Its basic point: Cries of poverty to the contrary, the nursing home field is doing very well indeed, thank you, especially for its owners. Along the way it ascribes some very Enron-like machinations to nursing home ownership, such as self-dealing and related party transactions, that the magazine implies are boosting profits to healthy, even obscene, levels. In case readers miss the point, U.S. News describes one owner who “…has reaped millions to furnish an affluent lifestyle that has included a small fleet of luxury cars, a million-dollar mini-mansion, and trips to Hawaii and Lake Tahoe,” although the residents of at least one of his homes, says the magazine, wallow in filth.

I’m not here to dispute the accuracy of the magazine’s story or the seriousness of the questions it raises. I do take issue with reportage that distorts an issue.

In simplest terms, there are two ways to do business: the wrong way and the right way. We have seen plenty of examples of the former, of late, and I’m sure nursing homes can offer up a few of their own. But there are also plenty of examples of for-profit facilities that are doing it right. Anyone who doubts that can check out our last three OPTIMA Award winners-for-profits, all. Many for-profits are family-owned businesses that seem to take pride in their community reputations and their ability to decently serve the elderly and others in need, despite legal and financial pressures. They do what it takes to stay ahead of the quality curve-and I’m willing to bet they bill for it aggressively, too. What successful business doesn’t?

“Enron-itis” no more belongs in this industry than in any other, and must be stopped at all costs. As for the “good guys,” they need society’s support, not more tongue-lashings. NH

To comment on the editorial, please send e-mail to peck1102@nursinghomesmagazine.com.

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