Over the past 12 months, Iowa hospitals have been subpoenaed for dozens of violations, including a dirty operating room, patient abuse, inadequate staffing and the discharge of patients from the emergency room with undiagnosed, life-threatening conditions.
In one case, Trinity Hospital in Bettendorf released a homeless, wheelchair-using veteran onto the street, according to state records, even though the man had no phone, destination, or transportation. Later that night, motorists spotted the man attempting to merge into interstate traffic in his wheelchair.
MercyOne-Des Moines Medical Center was subpoenaed over a situation in June in which an intruder broke into a neonatal intensive care unit, where he changed a baby’s diaper and fed the baby before fleeing on foot when confronted by staff .
Although most hospitals in Iowa are only inspected by private accrediting organizations, some are inspected by the state based on complaints or claims that patients were discharged from the ER without first being stabilized.
Among the violations cited by state inspectors of Iowa hospitals over the past 12 months, Waterloo’s MercyOne-Waterloo Medical Center was charged in April for failing to ensure patients are cared for in a safe environment. Upon reviewing three patient records, inspectors concluded that the emergency department documented unstable behavior problems in all three cases, but failed to provide adequate monitoring to prevent attempts by patients to harm themselves or others.
On April 9, two patients came to the hospital independently, each saying they wanted to kill themselves. Both were supposed to be checked every 15 minutes, but the task was delegated to a security guard by a nurse. The guard was eventually called off, so the job reverted to the nurses, who were absent from the checks for more than three hours. A nurse told inspectors that the emergency department was unable to provide the necessary monitoring for suicidal patients due to staff shortages. However, the inspector reviewed video footage that allegedly showed the nurses “randomly” walking around the department attending to various tasks without ever checking on the two patients or looking at the video monitor screens.
In December, the hospital was cited for its response to abuse allegations. Inspectors reviewed the personnel file of a former security officer and found records showing that on September 9, 2021, an employee had claimed that the security officer “hit a patient with his fists closed.” A month later, according to the filing, the security guard was involved in an incident involving another patient and had “delivered seven closed-fist punches to the patient’s head.”
The security guard was fired at the time, but the hospital did not conduct a thorough investigation into the incidents, inspectors said. Also, inspectors said the hospital failed to conduct adequate screening of the security staff before hiring him.
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