It isn’t hard to believe that the well-financed nursing home industry has “bought” the support of many state legislators around the country. The industry’s huge cash donations to legislators is well documented. In Iowa, Florida and a few other states, it also appears that the tentacles of the nursing home industry are firmly in control of the Governor’s office. Among other things, the Governor of Iowa has rewarded his nursing home buddies by making dramatic cuts in the number of state employees responsible for inspecting long-term care facilities!

Before I get into more specifics about the Iowa Governor’s role in protecting the nursing home industry, I wanted to share the following comment left on my blog from a CNA working in Iowa…

“I’m a CNA living and working in Iowa, currently studying to be Registered Nurse. I have been a CNA for nearly 10 years and have worked in many different settings, including nursing homes and assisted living facilities. Due to inadequate staffing levels, being a CNA at a nursing home is very hard, especially when it comes to working third shift (overnight). I’m currently dealing with a situation at an assisted living facility where most of my residents have dementia and need a more intense level of care, as provided in a nursing home setting.  I wonder how the state can allow this facility to continue operating while providing a much lower level of care than our residents need? All of the doors are alarmed and most residents require full care — even feeding. Just as in a nursing home, we are also required to wake up residents up on third shift in order to weigh them. I don’t understand how this is legal or ethical — but am having a hard time finding any laws or regulations to back me up. There needs to be rule that says staff can’t force resident to get out of bed before before 6:00am!”

Obviously this CNA’s comments point out several areas of concern about the situation in Iowa.

First, why does the state allow assisted living facilities to attempt to offer care they are neither staffed or qualified to offer? Oh wait: the assisted living industry also spends tens-of-thousands of dollars every year to lobby/influence the Governor and state legislators to do their bidding, which includes looking the other way when it comes to the types of residents allowed to live in an assisted living facility.

Second, no facility legally has the “right” to force residents to get out of bed at any time of the day or night. No nursing home and no assisted living facility can do this legally. Be it a nursing home or assisted living facility, nursing home residents have rights — including the right to refuse care. Why isn’t the state of Iowa doing something about this blatant abuse of resident’s rights? Again the people with the money (the industry) control the politicians and state employees (which are controlled by the politicians) to make sure that no serious infractions of state and federal regulation (like violating resident’s rights) are cited. After all, when a facility is cited for violating resident’s rights (or for not meeting other regulations), the state can assess and collect fines from the facilities. Of course the industry doesn’t want to part with one cent of their outrageous profits! So in Iowa you have a Governor-mandated cut in the number of inspectors and so fewer inspections take place and when they do, the overworked inspectors are much more likely to not have time to address all of the problems in the facility they are inspecting. The result is fewer problems identified, fewer fines assessed by the state, greater profit margins for the industry and even more inadequate care provided for residents.

Follow the money trail and you’ll clearly see who gets protected: the industry, not the residents. What can change this outcome so that resident care comes first? What must change is that we the people — instead of just the lobbyists who work for the filthy rich nursing home and assisted living industries — must be organized and have our voices heard by the politicians to let them know that they will “pay” (by losing our vote) if they fail to protect nursing home residents. “We the people” ultimately must make a difference!