Senate Democrats call for investigation of Iowa nursing home abuse, neglect cases

DES MOINES — Democrats in the Iowa Senate say there’s a nursing home crisis in Iowa and the Senate Oversight Committee should launch a bipartisan investigation.

Senator Claire Celsi, a Democrat from West Des Moines, said some facilities are not being properly managed and it’s “a life and death issue” for some nursing home residents. “Our state’s current nursing home system is fundamentally broken and failing to protect Iowans,” Celsi says.

There are over 400 nursing homes in Iowa and Celsi said the state should be employing far more than 49 nursing home inspectors. She points to Michigan, which has a similar number of nursing homes and 47% more inspectors. “We need accountability in our nursing homes,” Celsi said. “…We need the help of our Republican colleagues to make these changes and to make any new laws.”

Republicans hold the majority of seats in the Iowa Senate and control the debate agenda, including what gets committee review.

Senate Democrats hosted a statehouse news conference Thursday that included retired state employees who worked as nursing home inspectors. Mary Weaver of Rippey is a retired registered nurse who worked in the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals. She’s concerned about a friend in an eastern Iowa nursing home who isn’t being bathed regularly and recently waited 90 minutes for assistance in getting to the rest room. “This is not the kind of treatment we want for our older Iowans,” she said. “This is inhumane. This is neglect.”

Dean Lerner was director of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals for a decade. “I don’t know whether to cry or scream about these horrific events that are going on in our nursing homes,” Lerner said.

John Hale, a consultant who focuses on long term care issues, said there aretoo many “head-shaking instances” of abuse and neglect in Iowa nursing homes. “Where’s the outrage from legislators?” Hale asked. “Where’s the outrage from the governor, from leaders of state agencies, from prosecutors or from the good apples in the nursing home industry that are tarred by the bad apples?”

Hale estimates $800 million in state tax money will go to Iowa nursing homes this year and he said there must be more accountability.

Late this afternoon Senate President Amy Sinclair, a Republican from Allerton, said over the past 12 months state regulators have issued over 2800 citations for elder care infractions and she “will not be scheduling a Government Oversight meeting on this topic because it would distract staff from performing their important work monitoring these facilities.”

Kollin Cromptom, a spokesman for Governor Reynolds, said in a written statement that the governor “believes solving the health care workforce shortage and addressing funding is the path to improving long-term care for Iowa’s seniors” and Medicaid funding for nursing home care has increased $163 million during her tenure as governor.