Attorneys, New Mexico healthcare center engage in newspaper ad battle

Sierra County Sentinel
Sierra County Sentinel

TRUTH OR CONSEQUENCES, N.M. (KRQE) – It’s become an all-out ad battle in one New Mexico town after some out of state lawyers looking for business accused a healthcare center of poor services.

The health center struck back with a unique strategy.

News spreads fast in Truth or Consequences, especially when it’s in the Sierra County Sentinel, the area’s weekly newspaper.

“Everyone does know about it, it’s a small community,” said Frances Luna, owner of the Sierra County Sentinel. “We publish every Friday. We hit the street before the chickens are up.”

More than 4,000 hard copies are delivered to local stores each week, but by 6 o’clock on Friday, May 19, the papers were nowhere to be found.

That week’s edition contained an ad for Arizona attorneys, slamming the local Sierra Health Care Center for poor operations based on Medicare inspections.

The ad directs people to Medicare’s website to prove its claims.

“Apparently the general manger and staff from Sierra Health Care Center had gone to all of the stores, Williamsburg to Elephant Butte, totaling more than 10 stores including Walmart and purchased every paper they could get their hands on,” Luna said.

Luna was left frustrated and irritated. She thinks the employees, who directly told her what they did, spend more than $1,000 buying up those papers.

“It hurt advertisers that week, as well as the readers that week,” she said.

Then, something interesting happened. The following week’s paper had two ads. The same one from the attorneys in Arizona, but right next to it another full page ad from Sierra Health Care Center.

It had testimonials from patients and their families, turning the fight into an advertisement showdown.

Luna said she’s never seen anything like it.

“This was never meant to be personal against the healthcare center or their staff. It’s just business.”

The attorneys bringing the lawsuit sent KRQE News 13 the following statement:

Nursing homes are surveyed at least once per year to make sure they are providing quality care to their residents.  Sierra Health Care Center’s survey results are public records that are published online by Medicare.  Sierra Health Care Center is also required to post its survey results in public, so that nursing home residents and their families can view them.  Wilkes & McHugh’s ad merely brings this already-public information to a larger audience.  In light of this, it is curious why Sierra’s managers would be focused on shielding the public from seeing their facility’s track record.  Such time and resources would likely be better spent improving residents’ care so that survey deficiencies do not occur in the first instance.  Wilkes & McHugh stands by our ad and by our commitment to representing New Mexico’s nursing home residents and their families.

 

 

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