Three more workers at Iowa institutions for people with severe intellectual disabilities have been fired or resigned over allegations they mistreated residents or failed to report such abuse, state officials confirmed this week.
Two workers were recently fired
from the Glenwood Resource Center and another resigned after being
suspended at the Woodward Resource Center.
The ouster of three more workers comes in the wake of 13 resignations or firings at the Glenwood institution late last year for physical abuse and verbal humiliation of residents with severe autism or other disabilities.
The new allegations at the Glenwood facility surfaced this month in an inspectors’ report. The inspectors wrote that a staff member used a spoon to
smear food on a resident’s face. Another worker told the staff member
to “knock it off.” The second worker wiped off the resident’s face, and
tried to comfort the person by holding hands and saying “it would be
OK,” the inspectors wrote. However, the second staff member did not
immediately report the abuse to supervisors, as required by the
institution’s policy and by state law, the report says.
second staff member later told inspectors that she saw her colleague
smear food across the faces of two residents, but she didn’t immediately
report the abuse because it was her first day working in that area of
the institution, “and she was afraid she was overreacting.”
A worker at the Woodward institution has resigned amid an investigation into allegations that he verbally and sexually abused a resident and verbally abused two others, state records show. After being suspended in January, the worker accused a colleague of striking a resident with a helmet, kicking the resident in the leg, pinning the resident on a sofa and spitting in the person’s face, state records show. The department couldn’t substantiate those allegations, but it did substantiate allegations of mistreatment of residents by the first worker. That worker resigned March 5, Department of Human Services administrators wrote in their response to a citation from the Department of Inspections and Appeals.
Details about the various allegations were included in inspection reports since February that carried a total of $11,000 in proposed fines against the two institutions. None of the workers or residents are named in the reports.
Rick Shults, a Department of Human Services administrator who oversees the state institutions, said Tuesday that the inspection reports show the facilities’ leaders are serious about fixing problems. “We are absolutely determined to continue quality improvement,” he said in an interview. He said many problems raised by inspectors were immediately fixed, and staff members didn’t try to hide anything.
“We are very transparent in what we report. We want DIA to know everything,” he said.
Shults said the fines likely will be reduced because his agency isn’t contesting them.
The inspectors identified other problems at Glenwood besides the food-smearing incident. Those included insufficient fire drills and lack of timely investigation and reporting of unexplained bruises and scrapes of residents. The inspectors also cited the Glenwood facility for a March incident in which a disabled resident was seriously injured because staff members used the wrong type of shower chair. The resident needed 18 stitches to close facial cuts after falling out of the chair, the inspectors wrote.
Shults, one of the Department of Human Services' top leaders, is directly overseeing the Glenwood institution while his department seeks a replacement for Superintendent Gary Anders, who retired in February. The two institutions have a total of about 360 residents and about 1,300 workers.
Seven of the 13 former workers at the Glenwood institution who were fired or quit late last year face criminal charges for allegedly mistreating residents there. Shults said it would be up to law enforcement officials to decide whether to charge any of the three former workers cited in the more recent inspections. Woodward Police Chief Joseph Cox said no charges have been filed against the worker who recently resigned there after being accused of sexual abuse. Mills County Attorney Naeda Elliott said no charges have been filed yet against the two recently fired workers at Glenwood.
His department has said it has increased supervision of front-line workers and improved staff training in response to the alleged mistreatment uncovered at Glenwood last year. Supporters of the institutions, including several parents' of residents, have emphasized that most of the staff are dedicated, caring workers.
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Three more state workers ousted amid allegations disabled residents were abused