I was frankly disturbed when I came across an article in the Press-Citizen by Clark Kauffman regarding a director of nursing at an Iowa nursing home who obviously bullied her employees into keeping quiet regarding poor care they may have witnessed at the facility.
Karen Etter, the former director of nursing at Windmill Manor Nursing Home, was charged with attempting to impede or interfere with state inspections at the nursing home she was responsible for overseeing. Despite Ms. Etter’s admission that she told employees at the facility that they would be fired if they reported dangerous conditions to state nursing home inspectors as opposed to herself or other administrators at the facility– she was acquitted of the charges.
The judicial magistrate that determined Ms. Etter should be acquitted based its conclusion on the fact that the comments were not applicable to an immediate investigation that the state was conducting as was seemingly the intention of the law.
Not surprisingly, Windmill Manor has a history of violations related to health and safety violations and is facing $92,400 in state and federal fines related to the pattern of poor care.
As far as I am aware, Iowa is one of only a few states that makes the interference of a nursing home inspection a crime. Under the terms of the 1957 law, officials can impose fines or criminal prosecution in cases where an individual or company interferes with the inspection.
Although this particular nursing home employee may have evaded criminal charges, I admire Iowa legislators for having the foresight to create such a law. Unfortunately too many nursing home employees knowingly disrupt or interfere with investigations at their facilities out of perhaps fear of personal liability or fallout from the facility administration. I hope other states legislate to assure nursing home investigators can do their job.