Iowa’s Labor Shortage

Unsafe Staffing

The nursing home industry has argued that unsafe staffing is a result of a labor shortage. Somehow, they argue, no one is available to work at long term care facilities.  The latest government data showed that 2022 was the second-best year on record in terms of raw job growth, behind only 2021.

The Iowa Capital Dispatch reported on unfair situation involving Brandy Johnson. Aspire of Perry nursing home employed Johnson as a certified nurse aide for three years. She had an impeccable work history. She even acted as the facility’s de facto administrator due to frequent turnover among the home’s licensed administrators.

The nursing home fired her after she answered questions from a state investigator. On Aug. 23, a state worker contacted Johnson and questioned her as part of an investigation pertaining to the nursing home. An hour later, Aspire’s administrator discharged her for creating a hostile work environment.

Aren’t they required to talk to investigators? Seems like a small infraction during such a terrible labor shortage, right?

Administrative Law Judge James E. Timberland presided on the application for jobless benefits. He concluded Johnson “had done nothing to create or contribute to a hostile work environment.” The administrator had “engaged in a pattern of unprofessional, belligerent and offensive conduct” against Johnson.

It is a rare win for the employees in Iowa despite widespread abuse and neglect.

Other Decisions

The article showed several other Iowa care facility workers denied unemployment benefits, including:

Salem Lutheran Home fired Donald Norris after 13 years of employment there as a certified nursing assistant. Security-camera footage caught Norris sitting in a chair and watching television without making the required rounds every two hours. A judge concluded Norris committed misconduct and ineligible for unemployment benefits.

Mercy Health Services’ Siouxland Medical Center fired Timothy Jordan. On March 3, a supervisor received a text message indicating Jordan had been sleeping for at least 20 minutes. The text message included a photograph of Jordan. An administrative law judge ruled Jordan ineligible for unemployment benefits.

DSM Management’s Genesis Senior Living fired Angela Burke as the assistant director of nursing. Burke allegedly failed to perform assessments, failed to check orders, and failed to perform wound care. No benefits.

Choking Death

Richard A. Kerr began working as a cook for Des Moines’ Trinity Center at Luther Park nursing home. Kerr was responsible for preparing meals according to the individualized safety needs. Kris Gilman was the facility’s culinary director.

In February, Gilman allegedly learned that Kerr was changing the menus for some of the residents, which required Gilman to change them back so they would conform to the physicians’ orders. At the time, Gilman allegedly reminded Kerr that he was not authorized to specify the food items to be prepared and served to residents. She even noted the potentially fatal risks associated with giving residents food that posed a choking hazard.

On July 15, Kerr entered “meal tickets” incorrectly because that resident’s medical orders limited their diet to soft, bite-sized pieces of food. The staff provided pulled meat instead of ground and the resident choked and died.

He was initially awarded unemployment benefits, but Administrative Law Judge Carly Smith recently reversed that decision on appeal and denied Kerr benefits.

In her ruling, Smith noted that Kerr had been “made aware that it was dangerous for him to enter the meal tickets when he was not properly trained because it could have a harmful impact on residents, i.e. choking.” She wrote that “as a result of (Kerr’s) failure to follow directions, a resident choked on the food, was hospitalized and died.”

Resident on Meth

One article from the Capital Dispatch reported an Iowa nursing home allowing a resident to smoke methamphetamine. Osage Rehab and Heath Care Center failed to address the illegal drug use of a male resident who had a psychoactive substance abuse disorder.

A tyrannical nurse also allegedly left residents in fear for their safety. Arboreta Healthcare owns and operates Osage Rehab and Heath Care Center. CEO Louis Collier controls Arboreta Healthcare which operates 21 health care facilities in Iowa and a total of 10 facilities in Nebraska, Texas, Florida and Georgia.