Columns appear here a week after they're sent to newspaper subscribers.

Skilled nursing facility gets away with flagrant neglect
By Sherry Robinson
All She Wrote
           Politicians like to tell us we’ve got the best healthcare in the world. That’s not always true.
          A family member I’ll call Rita took her mother in for a knee replacement. The surgery went well, and she received good care from the hospital. Her rehab was another story.
          In a for-profit, skilled nursing facility, the staffing was thin and the care indifferent. Although Rita’s mother was supposed to get physical therapy daily, she lay in bed for days with no therapy. She sat for hours in a wet diaper, despite Rita’s repeated calls for help. The food was so bad that Rita brought her mother’s meals from home.
           Worst of all was the casual attitude toward medications. Rita’s mother was in a lot of pain. Her caregivers were routinely late with her meds even though Rita notified them from the room a half hour before the meds were due.
          Once, after repeatedly pressing the call button to no response, Rita walked down the hall and found staff members sitting in the lobby playing games on their phones. The light board behind them was lit up, and the phones were ringing. Rita could hear people calling for help.
          “It was a nightmare,” she said. “What happens to people who have no one to speak for them?”
          When Rita checked her mother out of the place – early – the woman across the hall cried because Rita had helped her too.
          From Google reviews, we learned we weren’t alone:
          “This place is awful… No working bathroom, food is GROSS and no care for patient. Leave our loved ones in filth all day. Why do we have to put up with this?”
          “Never go to this place for rehabilitation. The food there has no taste and no one eats the food… Even the cleaning of the rooms was bad. The bathrooms never got cleaned.”
          “My mother was a resident for around a month. Because of the neglect from this facility, she passed away. Please do not place your loved ones in this facility.”
          “This is not a good facility… Only one doctor for the whole facility. She never sees all her patients… Those CNA (certified nurse assistant) people haven't given my friend a shower yet. It's been 5 days now.”
          “Therapy slacks off a lot and don't work with you to get better! They all look so careless. The food here has no flavor, so nasty the food! When you’re in terrible pain they take lots of time to bring them to you! You can be dying here and they won't care.”
          “This facility has been a nightmare. The staff rarely answer the phones or return calls.
          They also repeatedly pick up and hang up the phones instead of answering. They will also try to avoid doing their job and try to tell you everything is your responsibility.”
          The website had one stuffy response from management: “We are disappointed to hear that you are not satisfied with your visit. Please contact our Compliance Department… so we can further investigate.”
          Here’s the thing: If there’s one place like this, there are more. It’s up to the state Health Department to keep an eye on them, and obviously that’s not happening.
          As a business writer, I’d expect such places to fail, but they muddle along because of demand. In Rita’s case, a better facility had no more beds, which means that Wedontgiveahoot Corp. has learned that they can still make money running a third-rate facility.
          Years ago, the head of the state Agency on Aging went undercover to experience nursing-home care firsthand. That bureaucrat was Michelle Lujan Grisham, and her report of “thoughtless care” shook things up. We need another shakeup.

Sherry Robinson photo

© 2019 NEW MEXICO NEWS SERVICES        9-30-19
Public and private could combine to push broadband into rural areas
By Merilee Dannemann
Triple Spaced Again
Under railroad tracks throughout New Mexico lies buried treasure. The treasure is black fiber.
Black fiber, also called dark fiber, is fiber-optic cable that nobody is using, cable that someone had the good sense to put into the ground anticipating that it might be needed in the future.
We don’t know completely where the fiber is, because it’s probably only buried under track that’s been repaired within recent years, and we don’t know exactly who owns it or has the relevant records.
The word “we” in this context means the individuals in both the public and private sectors who are trying to create a comprehensive state broadband plan.
There are lots of participants, both public and private sector, and as of now nobody is in charge.  All this has to be worked out.
Sen. Michael Padilla has been working on broadband for several years and has introduced legislation to get the parties together. So far he’s been partially successful.
The Association of Commerce and Industry is trying to spearhead a process called a gap analysis, which means figuring out what we know and don’t know, along with an inventory of what we have and don’t have.
For example, according to a 2017 study by the Legislative Finance Committee, 92 percent of New Mexico schools have fiber, but in many cases the fiber doesn’t go beyond the school building. High school students sit in their cars in the school parking lot, using the school’s wi-fi to do their homework.
Functioning internet connections require two things: the fiber and the electronic boxes that make the connections work.
As the LFC report explains: “There are three main types of wired broadband technologies: digital subscriber line (DSL), cable, and fiber optics. DSL is run over telephone wires and is most commonly the only available connection to the home in rural areas. Cable runs over cable television wires and is largely available to the home in urban and higher density rural areas. Fiber is run over flexible glass tubes and is available to the home only in parts of Albuquerque, with some exceptions.”
The report continues: “Only fiber is suitable for users that want to engage in heavy broadband traffic like streaming video on multiple devices, managing large online datasets, or running cloud-based software applications. Wireless technologies are also widely available, but are limited to low speeds for most users for the foreseeable future.”
In other words, meaningful economic activity in rural communities requires fiber, and the fiber has to get past the school into the neighborhoods – the “last mile.”
This is expensive, but we won’t know how expensive until we know in more detail what’s needed. Back to that gap analysis. The next stage of cooperation will require a very big table with chairs for lots of people, including those who provide these services (such as phone and cable TV companies) and those who need them.
The LFC report suggests that the solution is to aggregate demand, meaning all potential big data users in a community should pool resources and share the costs and maintenance responsibilities. That includes schools, colleges, government agencies, hospitals, businesses, and so on. The report says that has been successful in other states.
To create that big table and get this all coordinated, Padilla plans to introduce legislation next year to create one central office for statewide high-speed broadband – probably within the existing state Department of Information Technology, known as DoIT.
I have commented repeatedly that New Mexico government agencies and organizations are not particularly good at working across organizational boundaries, cooperating or sharing resources.  Our governor, Michelle Lujan Grisham, has obviously noticed the same problem and talks about state government breaking out of silos. Broadband development is one where cooperation, coordination and communication can make a huge difference.
Contact Merilee Dannemann through