Massive Budget Cuts Prevent Iowa Ombudsmen from Visiting Nursing Homes
In response to massive budget cuts to Iowa’s Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman, the state agency has eliminated nearly all staff visits to nursing homes and assisted care facilities.
The most recent session of the Iowa Legislature resulted in lawmakers cutting $500,000 from the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s nearly $2 million budget for the fiscal year.
The agency receives $1.3 million in state funds and $400,000 from the federal government each fiscal year. During the 2015-2016 fiscal year, the agency visited more than 5,000 nursing homes in Iowa. Data from the ombudsman office reveals that in-state travel to these facilities accounts for up to $85,000 of the agency’s annual budget.
The Office of the State of Long-Term Care Ombudsman acts as an independent entity within the Iowa Department of Aging that protects the health, safety and rights of approximately 53,000 elderly individuals residing in Iowa’s 850 nursing homes.
Currently, the state agency only employs eight regional ombudsman who are charged with investigating and resolving claims of nursing home abuse and neglect throughout Iowa.
Elderly Rights Advocates Warn Against Ending Nursing Home Visits
As the budget cuts go into effect, the Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman is currently relying on telephones and other technology to connect with staff members and residents of nursing homes in Iowa.
The condition of Iowa’s ombudsman program has alarmed advocates of elderly rights, some of whom believe the recent budget cut is an intentional move by the state government to reduce its oversight of assisted living facilities.
Additionally, ending ombudsman visits to nursing homes and assisted care facilities makes it difficult to build relationships with residents and acquire information needed to thoroughly investigate complaints.
The well-being of residents may depend on a regular on-site presence so that officials are able to quickly identify concerns and respond to complaints, according to Lori Smetanka, executive director of the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care.
Iowa has One of the Highest Ombudsman-Resident Ratios in the U.S.
According to the Administration for Community Living’s most recent data, only nine other states besides Iowa had a higher ratio of long-term care ombudsmen to nursing home residents in 2015.
Iowa’s Office of the State Long-Term Care Ombudsman also ranked last in the percentage of nursing homes that were visited at least one time each fiscal quarter. Only 12 percent of the state’s nursing homes were visited quarterly, compared to the national average of 67 percent.
In the 2015-2016 fiscal year, nearly 700 ombudsman visits to nursing homes were in response to reports of poor resident care or violations of residents’ rights. Regional ombudsman also participated in 99 health-and-safety inspections of assisted living facilities, which are coordinated by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals.
Iowa’s ombudsman’s office is granted legal authority to enter nursing home facilities without notice, access records associated with resident care and conduct interviews with residents and staff members.
However, the office is not required to perform all of those functions when an ombudsman visits a nursing home. Rather, he or she is only obligated to be accessible to nursing home residents when needed.
Contact a Nursing Home Abuse Attorney in Milwaukee
It is vital for the well-being and safety of nursing home residents that they receive state and federal protection to ensure each resident receives the quality care he or she requires.
At PKSD, we strongly advocate for the protection of nursing home residents, and are ready to help those whose rights have been violated.
If your loved one has been neglected or suffered harm caused by abuse while residing in a nursing home, do not hesitate to contact us to schedule a free, no obligation consultation. We work only on a contingency fee basis, which means we only charge legal fees if we reach a fair outcome for your claim.
Call 877-877-2228 to get started today.