Iowa Loses Nursing Home Watchdog Due To Budget Cuts

Most states have agencies whose sole job it is to advocate for patients and residents in long term care facilities such as nursing homes. In cases where abuse or neglect may be present, these people are able to become a voice for a patient who might otherwise not have one. They can also help families choose which nursing facility is best for their loved one. However, the Des Moines Register reports that budget cuts have eliminated nursing home visits from the long-term-care ombudsmen’s office.

At the same time that the Iowa Long-Term Care Ombudsmen’s office lost its top administrator, Deanna Clingan-Fischer, the agency has eliminated virtually all staff visits to nursing and long-term care facilities.

The agency sites deep budget cuts as the cause for the elimination of visits to nursing facilities where they advocate for patients who are often elderly and disabled.

The office, which is run out of the Iowa Department on Aging, employs a total of eight ombudsmen who investigate allegations of abuse and neglect, advocate for residents and patients of nursing and long-term care facilities, and also provide training for care-facility workers.

The office’s annual budget, which is made up of $1.3 million dollars provided by the state and $400,000 from the federal government, was cut by roughly half a million dollars in the fiscal year that began last month.

Most of the office’s budget is eaten up by salaries. Since they were understaffed as it was, Clingan-Fischer decided to cut the next largest expense: in-state travel, which costs the agency from $65,000 to $85,000 annually.

Clingan-Fischer recently resigned her position to take up a position as ombudsman for Iowa State University. In part, she says she resigned her position was the uncertainty regarding funding for the agency’s work.

Where in years past, the office conducted on-site visits to inspect and address complaints, the current office is relying on telephones and other technology to connect with nursing home residents.

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