State officials say they were justified in not citing a Ruthven nursing home for abuse last month and have yet to make a criminal referral in the case.
Two weeks ago, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals (DIA) issued an inspection report detailing allegations of resident abuse at the Ruthven Community Care Center in northwest Iowa.
The home is currently facing a $6,750 fine from the state. However, that fine is not tied to any of the abuse-related issues at the home. The state fine is for a separate violation alleging a failure to maintain residents’ nutritional status.
The Iowa Capital Dispatch asked a department spokesperson whether the agency had referred to prosecutors an inspector’s findings that a nurse aide had borrowed $40 from a resident and then never repaid the man.
In response, DIA spokesperson Stefanie Bond said, “it is the facility’s responsibility to report suspicion of crimes to law enforcement,” but added that DIA intends to make a referral, as well, once the matter is reviewed.
She said the DIA nursing home inspector consulted with the agency’s Abuse Coordinating Unit, and the unit is currently “reviewing this allegation for abuse.” Once that review is completed, she said, the unit “will make a referral to the local county attorney and DIA’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit.”
Bond also defended DIA’s decision not to cite the loan or other incidents at the home as actual abuse, preferring instead to issue citations for peripheral violations such as failure to respect residents’ rights or dignity, or failure to develop or follow policies related to abuse.
For example, the same resident who said he loaned money to one of his caregivers told inspectors that at one point the “kitchen staff poured water on my head.” The man, who has cerebral palsy, explained that he believed the act was intended as a joke, but believed it was inappropriate.
“I’m very jumpy and used to have seizures,” the man told inspectors. “She would poke my ribs, too. I asked her to stop, but she didn’t. I moved places so she couldn’t do it so easily … The kitchen staff tell me they are joking and having fun, but it feels like they’re picking on me. I reported it but as far as I know, nothing was done.”
The home’s dietary supervisor told inspectors she had poured just two drops of water onto the resident’s head, and then wiped it off.
Asked why DIA hadn’t cited the incident as abuse, and instead categorized it as a failure to develop policies that pertain to abuse allegations, Bond said only that the violation DIA chose …….