According to a Sept. 27 news report from the Des Moines Register, a nurse who resigned from an Iowa nursing home testified during her hearing for her claim of unemployment benefits that she was instructed to falsify medical records and allow unqualified assistants to administer medications to residents.
Teressa A. Hansen resigned in late June from Countryside Health Care Center in Sioux City. She had worked at the facility as a charge nurse for six months and was responsible for overseeing certified nursing assistants and administering medication to residents.
Management at Countryside cut the number of employees in the spring and early summer of 2023, and Hansen testified that made it harder for the remaining staff to care for the 52 residents. In June, the management of the facility instructed Hansen to train a certified nursing assistant (CNA) in the duties of a registered nurse, and that, moving forward, the CNA would take over certain nursing duties, like passing out medications, while Hansen would be required to sign off on performing these tasks.
Hansen testified that management allegedly told her not to question this decision when she objected, and she resigned the next day. She testified that providing medical treatments to residents is outside the scope of a CNA’s practice and that falsifying documentation is not only illegal but would jeopardize her nursing license.
Hansen was awarded her unemployment benefits because, according to Administrative Law Judge Patrick B. Thomas, her allegations were credible, and she had resigned for good cause attributable to the nursing home.
Multiple Deaths Cited at Countryside Health Care Center
In late July, just one month after Hansen’s resignation, Countryside closed its doors. But in the seven months leading up to the closure, the home was cited for numerous incidents, including the deaths of several of its residents. Most notably:
- In January, a female resident was found unresponsive on the floor of her room and died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital. The facility was cited for failing to properly supervise the resident and for failing to report the incident to the state.
- In April, state inspectors responded to a backlog of nineteen uninvestigated complaints and cited Countryside with twenty federal violations and five state violations at that time. Specifically noted was failing to inform the state about a resident who fell and died and failing to care for a resident who developed foul-smelling wounds on her legs, which led to her hospitalization and subsequent death.
- In June, eight more federal violations and one state violation were cited against the facility. These citations were for failing to report major resident injuries to the state and failing to report a resident’s hospitalization due to life-threatening sepsis.
- An additional four federal violations and one state violation were cited against Countryside, including one for failing to check vital signs or contact a physician when a resident’s blood pressure and urinary output dropped and her abdomen became distended. The resident was hospitalized and died shortly after.
In the three years prior to its closure, Countryside Health Care Center was fined fourteen times by the federal government, totaling more than $98,000, with most of those fines being held in suspension while federal regulators at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services could impose penalties.
Isaac Dole, the CEO of the investment firm Birchwood Healthcare Partners, is tied to Opco Sioux City, an Iowa for-profit corporation that managed Countryside. One of the nation’s largest nursing home real estate owners, Aviv REIT, priorly employed Dole in the role of managing director of acquisitions.
Dole was unable to be reached for comment.
Pending Lawsuit Against Opco and Countryside
A lawsuit from former resident Darcy Basalyga and her family has been filed against Countryside and Opco. The lawsuit alleges that while Basalyga lived at Countryside, the facility repeatedly failed to check her blood sugar levels, which resulted in two separate hospitalizations, a diagnosis of infection, diabetic coma, pneumonia, dehydration, and severe open wounds.
Opco has denied any wrongdoing, despite the Iowa Department of Inspections, Appeals and Licensing citing the facility for the alleged deficiencies in Basalyga’s care. This case is scheduled for trial in June 2024.
If you or someone you love was a resident at Countryside Health Care Center and wishes to pursue legal action against Countryside or Opco, our expert team of nursing home abuse attorneys at Thomas Law Office is here to help. Reach out to us today for a free consultation.
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