Back when I first got into the broadcast news business, and yes, of course, that was in the midst of the notorious 60s, one of the real attractions of the craft was the opportunity to, as the journalistic credo goes, “afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted.”
Despite all the whining of President Trump about his discomforts, inflicted on him by the crooked, lame, failing, fake news media, today’s, particularly broadcast media tend to coddle the comfortable with ipso facto approval and admiration. The afflicted are largely ignored.
Which is why I’ve so admired the investigative reporting of our guest today, Thomas Cole, who this year moved from the Albuquerque Journal to the Santa Fe New Mexican.
For both papers, Thom Cole has covered the plight of New Mexico’s poorest and most vulnerable people, the elderly, the infirm, those battling mental illness or addictions, people who can effectively be defined as clients of Medicare and Medicaid.
New Mexico is a poor state, and the Governor for the past 6 and ½ years, Susana Martinez has all the flintiness of a jailer’s daughter when it come people whom we might call structurally, or just chronically, in need.
When it comes to those people, whether they depend on the state for behavioral health services, or to provide their Food Stamps, or to monitor their care in nursing homes or residences for released mental patients, New Mexico is one of the worst places in America to be.
Even in tony Santa Fe people in need of nursing home or rehabilitation care who pay for it through Medicare or Medicaid have only 2 choices. One, according to state and Federal inspectors’ reports is below average in most respects, the other is close to beyond belief. Over the past 2 years, Cole reported in The New Mexican, Casa Real in Santa Fe has generated 428 complaints to the State Ombudsman for nursing home care. More than 62% of them were sustained.
Casa Real has gotten consistently gotten poor marks for the quality of its care for the last 15 years. Over that period, the nursing home has been sued 13 times for allegedly wrongful deaths of residents. 10 of those suits never went to trial, with the strong, if unconfirmed possibility that this is because they were settled out of court.
The Trump Administration has recently changed the rules for nursing homes that accept Federal dollars of Medicaid and Medicare patients to protect them from those often very expensive settlements. Trump has ripped up an Obama-era rule that protected residents from being forced to give up their rights to sue and instead take their claims to arbitration, a far friendlier venue than the courts for corporate interests.
Thomas Cole is an award-winning newspaper and wire service reporter with more than three decades of experience. Cole, 61, moved to the Santa Fe daily, The New Mexican, after working more than 24 years at the Albuquerque Journal. He previously worked for The New Mexican as an assistant city editor and a projects reporter.
Earlier in his career, Cole was a reporter for United Press International in Harrisburg, Pa., Charleston, W.Va. and Morgantown, W.Va., covering everything from state politics to college football.
He has specialized in covering government and politics since moving to New Mexico in 1989. Cole for seven years wrote a front-page column for the Journal that often was devoted to those subjects. New Mexican Editor Ray Rivera said Cole will work as an editor and will help direct investigations and projects.