But Washburn was fired a few days after making the report. Her boss at Montrose Health Center accused her of trying to intimidate a co-worker into giving state inspectors information about the alleged abuse. The co-worker, who has admitted under oath that she downplayed her report to the state to protect the nursing home, has since been promoted.
Washburn says this isn't how it's supposed to work. Under Iowa law, all health care professionals are considered "mandatory reporters," meaning they must report cases of suspected dependent-adult abuse. Failure to do so is a crime — at least in theory.
But state officials say there is no record of anyone being convicted of violating Iowa's mandatory-reporter law during the past 10 years. The last known conviction was in 1997, and that resulted in a $50 fine.
Gerald Jogerst, a University of Iowa researcher who has studied elder abuse: "That doesn't surprise me. I don't think there are really any teeth in that law. It's just paper. I think we've proven that in Iowa."
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Health workers who ignore abuse rarely punished