State Board Chairman Forced To Resign After Inappropriate Oversight of Nursing Homes, Comments

The head of the state board that oversees Iowa's nursing home administrators has resigned amid questions over his conduct and the board's diligence in policing the profession.

The chairman of the Iowa Board of Nursing Home Administrators resigned Friday after six years on the board and 15 months as its chairman.

The resignation came during a three-minute meeting between the chairman and the governor's chief of staff who was said to be appalled at recent news reports of the chairman's characterization of a caregiver's sexual abuse of a nursing home resident as a harmless relationship.

Last month, The Des Moines Register reported a variety of issues involving the board, which licenses and oversees Iowa's 750 nursing home administrators.

Among the newspaper's findings:

- The board has taken no disciplinary action against a nursing home administrator in the past two years, despite specific findings of wrongdoing by state health inspectors. Even when an administrator has been convicted of a crime, the board has taken up to three years to impose sanctions.

- Some cases of alleged wrongdoing are not being reviewed by the board.

- Although the board is required to have at least two citizen representatives to represent the public, it has operated with only one such member for the past 14 months. One citizen representative resigned last year after complaining that she was marginalized by the other members and blocked from the disciplinary committee meetings where allegations of misconduct were discussed.

- According to Iowa law, the chairman's seat on the board is reserved for a person who is "actively engaged" in the profession of nursing home administration. But he recently resigned as the administrator of a nursing home in Waterloo and now is a consultant for a company that will not open its first nursing home until late 2010.

- In 2004, state health inspectors imposed a $3,500 fine against the care facility that the chairman then managed. The state alleged he failed to properly respond to complaints that a female worker was having sex with a brain-injured, 29-year-old male resident of the home.

In his written response to the state's allegations, he said: "The relationship was initiated by, and was meaningful to, (the resident). ... The presented situation was one of mutual interest of a (resident) and a caregiver and, although inappropriate, did not present potential or actual harm to the consumer due to the reciprocal fond relationship."

In Iowa, a professional caregiver who engages in sex with a nursing home resident can be charged with a crime, dependent-adult abuse. For more, read the story.

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Robert W. Carter, Jr. is a Virginia attorney whose law practice is dedicated to protecting the rights of the victims of nursing home and assisted living neglect and abuse in Richmond, Roanoke, Norfolk, Lynchburg, Danville, Charlottesville, and across Virginia.

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