WASHINGTON — The death of an elderly woman at a north-central Iowa nursing home, allegedly from abuse and neglect, is subject of a U.S. Senate panel hearing on Wednesday.

Iowa Senator Chuck Grassley, who chairs the Finance Committee, says they will consider the case of 87-year-old Virginia Olthoff, who died in February of 2018 at the Timely Mission Nursing Home in Buffalo Center.

“That’s a very hard thing for any family,” Grassley says. “The people responsible for any abuse or neglect should be held responsible.”

A state inspection report said Olthoff was in severe pain for days before she died, and she went several days without water, suffering from critical dehydration. Grassley has called the report “very disturbing” and “heartbreaking.”

“What makes it even worse is that this nursing home had received the highest possible rating from the Centers for Medicaid Services,” Grassley says. “It even got a five-star rating, despite being fined for verbal and physical abuse.”

Grassley says his panel will hear testimony from Iowa Public Radio reporter Pat Blank, of Shell Rock, who is Olthoff’s daughter. The committee will also hear from federal officials on how the nursing home ratings system is being upgraded.

“Testimony will give our committee some first-hand insight into what needs to change for patients and family,” Grassley says, “and how we can improve accountability.”

The Winnebago County nursing home was fined more than $77,000 last August by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, in part, over the treatment of Olthoff.