Iowa agency ends nursing home visits

DES MOINES (AP) — An Iowa agency that advocates for the elderly and people with disabilities will no longer send staff to visit nursing homes because of budget cuts.

The Iowa Long-Term Care Ombudsman’s office has eliminated in-state travel after losing a quarter of its nearly $2 million budget this fiscal year, The Des Moines Register reported . In-state travel can cost up to $85,000 annually.

Data from the office says staff visited more than 5,000 care facilities in the 2015-16 fiscal year. State law allows the ombudsman’s office to enter care facilities without notice to access resident care records and conduct interviews.

About 53,000 Iowa residents live in nursing homes or assisted-living centers.

More than 80 percent of the ombudsman’s budget goes toward salaries.

John Hale, an Ankeny consultant who specializes in issues affecting the elderly, said the budget cuts must be reversed.

“The Iowans charged with protecting the health, safety and rights of residents in Iowa nursing homes can no longer go to these places in person to thoroughly investigate complaints and fully advocate for residents,” Hale wrote. “I refuse to accept that there is no money available to fund such essential services.”