According to a research by the Post, one in six hospices in the United States did not provide crisis care to their dying patients this year. “The lack of such care,” had written Post reporters Peter Whoriskey and Dan Keating, “suggests that some hospice care outfits are stinting on medical care, according to hospital professionals. Inspection and issue information, meanwhile, illustrate the discomfort of sufferers who have been left without proper care.” And, indeed, Whoriskey and Keating offer some experiences about failures, starting with 85-year-old Ying Tai Choi, a Tampa, Florida, woman whose nurse abandoned her an hour before she died.
What gives the Post’s research value beyond its immediate impact, though, is that the document submitted the data source it used to carry out its reporting. The Post says it examined Medical health insurance payments information for more than 2,500 hospice care companies as well as “an internal Medical health insurance count of medical care in sufferers near death and examined complaint records at hundreds of hospices.” By showing its work, the document has provided valuable leads for follow-up experiences by news organizations across the country. According to the data source, 16 percent of 43 hospice care facilities serving 22,865 sufferers in Massachusetts reported providing no crisis care this year. That percentage is right around the national average, though it is higher than any other New England state.
Under Medical health insurance guidelines, a hospice must be able to offer crisis care to its critically ill sufferers, which the Post tells us, is “either ongoing medical care at home or an inpatient bed at a hospital.” The Post is careful to point out that the mere fact that a service did not offer crisis care in a given year is not evidence that there’s anything wrong. It’s possible that none of its sufferers needed it. A further explanation: The lack of crisis care does not necessarily indicate a breach of the guidelines. But hospital professionals say it is unlikely that larger hospices had no sufferers who required such care. In other words, the data source provides questions, not answers, precisely the information news companies’ need for follow-up reports at the local level. Investigative reporting is expensive and time-intensive. The Post’s hospice care story provides reporters with a great jump start.