Nursing Home Administrator Facing Charges For Locking Resident Out Overnight

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on April 25, 2023 in Nursing Home Abuse
Updated on April 24, 2024

Elderly man sitting in wheelchair facing window. In another shocking Iowa nursing home incident, a resident was locked out of the facility where he lived and left overnight.

Iowa state officials investigated the chain of events, discovering what happened was no accident. The resident, who is wheelchair-bound and insulin-dependent, had been purposely locked out and left outside, unattended, for 11 hours.

Allegedly, Scott Morton, a former administrator at the Dubuque Specialty Care nursing home, is the one who gave the order for the resident to be locked out and not let back in.

What Events Led to the Resident Being Locked Out?

The resident, who is confined to a wheelchair, was told about a new non-smoking policy at the facility. Reportedly, staff told him the new policy barred residents from smoking not just inside the property, but also anywhere else on the facility premises, including outside.

The resident became upset and complained to staff, saying he was, “getting the hell out of here.” At some point after that statement, an on-duty nurse asked the resident to sign papers, acknowledging he was leaving the facility against medical advice. Staff also told the resident that once he left, he would not be allowed back inside the building and he would also no longer be the responsibility of either the facility or its staff.

The man left the building, wheeling himself to the end of the driveway, where he waited for a friend to pick him up. After the friend did not show, he moved across the street from the facility, where he continued to wait. The resident sat there in his wheelchair until 4 a.m. the next morning. At that time, the man called for a taxi.

While trying to get into the taxi, the man, who is also insulin-dependent, fell, soiling himself in the process. At that point, the taxi driver called for an ambulance and the man was taken to the hospital.

What Dubuque Staff Say Happened

According to the nursing staff at the facility, the administrator told them not to go near the resident or let him back in. Another nurse aide said she was advised by staff to stay away from the resident. According to her, they were all worried about losing their jobs if they tended to the resident.

Morton says that “Technically, he (the resident) discharged himself from the facility, so we were not responsible for him.”

According to a news article, Morton was questioned by inspectors again two days after the initial interview. During this conversation, he allegedly told inspectors that all of the residents and staff misunderstood the policy. He said that residents had always been permitted to smoke outside on the property.

The Administrator is Facing Charges

As a result of his actions, Morton now faces disciplinary charges from the Iowa Board of Nursing Home Administrators. He is being charged with professional incompetence, as well as violating other unspecified nursing home regulations. These unspecified violations have remained confidential. His hearing with the licensing board is currently scheduled for May 23.

As a result of this incident, the facility was also cited by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services in the amount of $131,640. State inspectors reported that the citation and resulting fine is the result of Dubuque’s failure to provide this resident with any type of assistance during the 11 hours he was left alone and outdoors.

One nurse aide says she brought him a sweatshirt when it started getting cooler outside. A male neighbor, not associated with the facility, also offered him a glass of water.

However, the facility failed to provide him with any food, shelter, insulin or other medications he is currently prescribed. This negligence put the resident in immediate danger.

A new administrator is now in charge of Dubuque Specialty Care. It is unknown whether Morton has sought employment as an administrator for another facility.

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