Story City Nursing Home Cited for Staffing Issues That Led to a Death

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on April 22, 2024 in Nursing Homes and Elder Rights

image of empty nursing home dining room story city Staffing issues have once again contributed to the death of a nursing home resident. This latest incident occurred at an Iowa nursing home. Bethany Life, a care facility in Story City, was cited for failing to provide proper supervision of a resident who needed help with his meals. This citation is not the first violation for Bethany Life.

No Help Was Giving to a Resident Known To Have Difficulties Eating

A male resident choked to death at Bethany Life on March 25. He was known to have trouble swallowing food. This issue was recorded in his care plan and is also the reason he was supposed to have supervision and assistance when he ate.

According to a state report, the incident began in the facility’s dining room when the man was trying to eat a caramel brownie and started choking. Although several staff members allegedly tried to clear his airway by doing the Heimlich maneuver, they were unsuccessful, and the man choked to death.

The disturbing thing about this incident is that the man had only been admitted to the facility just three weeks earlier. In addition to the care plan documenting the man’s known difficulties with swallowing food, the man’s wife said she repeatedly told the facility he needed to be watched while he was eating at all times. She said she had also told them how her husband tended to eat too fast.

Despite the care plan and additional verbal warnings, Bethany Life failed to provide supervision, leading to the man’s choking death.

Bethany Life Cited for Repeat Violations

State inspectors investigating the incident noted repeat violations at the facility, which included:

  • Failing to ensure the facility had implemented a process where staff could report concerns without fear of being fired or facing other forms of retaliation from the facility.
  • Failing to provide residents with a safe living environment
  • Failing to provide adequate staffing – inspectors reported that the 15-bed dementia unit was consistently understaffed.
  • The facility was also cited for two incidents of abuse. In one of the incidents, a male nurse assistant shouted threats at both a resident and a housekeeper. The second resident involved one of the facility’s staff trying to offer sexual favors to a resident who suffered from severe dementia.

This latest report of nursing home violations is just another incident amid ongoing concerns about substandard staffing levels in Iowa’s nursing homes. A recent news article reports that as much as 14 percent of the state’s 422 nursing facilities were cited for insufficient staffing in 2023. That figure is more than double the national average. Other states, including Hawaii, Michigan, Montana, New Mexico and Oregon, also recorded high rates of similar citations.

Bethany Life now faces a proposed state fine of $27,750. That amount is triple the normal fine for this violation since it is a repeat offense.

Bethany Life Maintains its Four-Star CMS Rating Despite Ongoing Issues

What is most disturbing is that, despite these issues and repeated staffing violations, Bethany Life continues to maintain a four-star rating for staffing from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Additionally, the facility’s nonprofit owner, Bethany Manor, which reported a substantial financial deficit in 2022, filed taxes showing a certified nurse aide and a medication aide among its highest-paid employees. Both of these individuals worked an average of 40 hours per week and were both paid over $100 thousand for the year.

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