State working through backlog of care facility investigations

Published: Dec. 27, 2022 at 10:39 PM CST
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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KCRG) - The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals said it was making up for the lost time when it comes to inspecting care facilities.

The DIA said it was not allowed to conduct surveys during the 2020 pandemic so care facilities could learn to navigate COVID-19. The DIA interacts with and investigates care facilities in several different ways. A surveyor can show up unannounced to investigate, or people can fill out a complaint for the state to investigate.

“It’s not uncommon to see these problems,” said Marcia Southwick, a Director with the National Association to Stop Guardian Abuse.

She hears complaints about the DIA year-round but said that number went up since the 2020 pandemic.

“We’re all going to get old; you have to think about what you want for your elders,” she said.

The DIA said it had followed the state’s guidance to start catching back up, but the state’s Long Term Care Ombudsman, Angela Van Pelt, said it had dire consequences.

“We had some sad stories,” she said. “Staffing issues got to a point where sometimes a complaint would come in, and four months later the same administrator wasn’t there.”

Van Pelt said they were seeing more than double the complaints this year as in years prior. She said that was because of a lack of state inspectors, nursing facilities not being able to hire and train staff but also many care facilities closing.

“The system is overwhelmed,” she said. “Because of the closures, there were complaints of people not responding to requests for assistance, maybe that’s call lights, and also personal hygiene issues.”

Van Pelt said they were seeing 2-4 facilities closing each month. A total of 55-closed this year. She said she hopes families do research on nursing facilities before making it their home.

“Look at what kind of facility, she said. Is it privately owned that’s been there for 20 years,” said Van Pelt. Or, is it owned by a corporation?”

Van Pelt said people can file complaints on the state’s website and can use the Medicaid Nursing facilities.