Care-home reports lauded
By Mark Platte
Reporter Rob Perez's investigative series on Hawai'i's troubled care-home system last week has drawn praise from readers, who marveled at his reporting about the lack of nursing home fines, the obstructionist care-home lobby, the lax regulatory issues and the lack of background checks that allow unscrupulous workers to worm their way back into the elder-care system.
"You did a great job on this," one reader said. "I'm really impressed and wish there was a lot more investigative journalism like this. I look forward to the next installments."
Said another: "Thank you for running this series. I think that it is so appropriate for the times. I believe that this kind of reporting is vital to the livelihood of newspapers in Hawai'i."
And this: "What an awesome series you have created. This is the kind of in-depth reporting I wish The Advertiser did more often. OK, I realize this strains resources, but your reporting on this topic is so important."
Readers appreciate investigative reporting and often remark on how little they see in Hawai'i. But it takes time and effort and expense.
In this case, Perez started working on this series about a year ago, writing several public records requests for documents that he knew would take weeks or months to be answered. He went to work on other assignments until the documents arrived.
"Off and on for the next four to five months, I pored through court files, inspection reports and other documents and interviewed close to 100 people involved with the long-term-care system," said Perez, who spoke to caregivers, patients, their family members, regulators, insurance people, healthcare workers, senior advocates, social workers, legislators and others.
"Some people I interviewed five, six, seven, even a dozen times, just to make sure I was on the right track or because I had come across some new angles," he said. "I also visited about a dozen different facilities, including nursing homes, care homes and foster homes."
The Advertiser spent about $500 for nursing-home inspection reports, which were placed online. A series that initially was to focus only on nursing homes was expanded later in the year to take a broader look at the long-term-care system, including the non-institutional facilities, and Perez had to continue reporting.
"The process is slow, but there's no other way to go about this," he said. "You have to be willing to invest the time required to do a thorough job researching the topic and understanding the nuances so you can frame the subject in the proper context. You also have to be willing to cut your losses if even after weeks of digging, you decide there just isn't a story there. Your editor has to understand that sometimes, there will be no payoff."
We insisted that this series have a strong consumer angle and our online report allowed readers to search a database of care-home facilities, rate them and leave comments as well as check through a series of questions that would lead to the right long-term-care situation. Perez did a live-stream interview with experts in the field that aired Wednesday and can be replayed. Check out our full report at www.honoluluadvertiser.com/kupuna.
We appreciate the feedback we have received on our investigative report so far, especially this comment.
"Keep it up," a reader wrote. "It is because of news like yours that I keep buying The Honolulu Advertiser."