Former Director of Nursing Sues Iowa Care Facility Over Understaffing and Unsafe Conditions

Posted on behalf of Jeff Pitman on June 18, 2024 in Nursing Home Abuse

Stephanie Schlegelmilch has filed a lawsuit against her former employer, Avoca Specialty Care facility in Pottawattamie County, Iowa. She was employed as the director of nursing at this facility. In her lawsuit, Schlegelmilch alleges Avoca broke state and federal laws by admitting residents to the facility despite ongoing issues with understaffing and other unsafe conditions. The lawsuit also names Care Initiatives of West Des Moines, which owns Avoca Specialty Care.

Schlegelmilch Raised Concerns About Understaffing

Schlegelmilch began working at Avoca Specialty Care in April of 2023. Early on, she observed a policy of forcing residents to live at facilities with a lack of space or staff to provide proper care.

The former director of nursing claims in the lawsuit that she raised concerns about these unsafe conditions with corporate officials between April and December of last year. She alleges that these conversations did not cause officials to change their practices. Care Initiatives continued to send people to live at Avoca despite continue staffing shortages.

Schlegelmilch says Care Initiatives’ regional nurse visited Avoca in November 2023 in the middle of an outbreak of COVID-19. However, she did not wear personal protective equipment. Schlegelmilch confronted the nurse, resulting in disciplinary action for insubordination. Just 10 days after this incident, Care Initiatives fired her.

While employed by the facility, Schlegelmilch alleges she was required to work excessive hours as a floor nurse, leaving her little time for administrative duties. When she attempted to have years’ worth of medical records electronically scanned to comply with federal regulations, the company refused to provide the necessary assistance.

The lawsuit against the facility and Care Initiatives is seeking damages for violating the Iowa Wage Payment Collection Act and Fair Labor Standards Act. Care Initiatives has not yet responded to the lawsuit.

Staffing Dilemma in Iowa Nursing Homes

In the 2023 fiscal year, state officials cited 14 percent of Iowa’s nursing homes for being understaffed. The national average of facilities being cited for understaffing is just 5.9 percent. There are just five states that have a worse history of not complying with staffing regulations: Hawaii, Oregon, New Mexico, Montana and Michigan.

Care Initiatives facilities have consistently had problems with understaffing. Ravenwood Specialty Care had 19 complaints in 2022 alone. State inspectors discovered there was one part of the dementia unit that did not have any staff.

During one visit to the facility, inspectors noted that a resident sat by a nurses’ station waiting for assistance. Eventually the assistant director of nursing came to the station, where the inspector told her the wing was not staffed. The assistant director said it was a problem and then walked away.

Seeking Legal Assistance for Nursing Home Neglect? Call PKSD

At PKSD, we are dedicated to upholding the rights of elderly individuals at nursing homes and long-term care facilities.

If your loved one was injured due to understaffing at a nursing home in Iowa, New Mexico or Wisconsin, our experienced nursing home abuse lawyers are prepared to help. Our law firm has secured millions for victims of nursing home neglect, and there are no upfront costs to hire our services.

Call today to request a FREE consultation: 414-333-3333.

Back to top