Alleged whistleblower sues Iowa nursing home for wrongful discharge

Posted at 10:53 AM, May 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-30 11:53:11-04

An Iowa woman who alleges she was fired for blowing the whistle on poor resident care at a nursing home is suing the facility for wrongful discharge.

Denise Brooks of Madison County is suing Windsor Manor, an Indianola nursing home, in Warren County District Court.

The facility, which has a memory care unit and is certified as a dementia-specific assisted living program, hired Brooks as a resident assistant in October 2018. Twelve months later, Brooks was allegedly attending a staff meeting and mentioned that she had noticed not all of the activities prescribed for residents – which included exercise, movie nights, coloring, puzzles, etc. — were being offered, despite workers signing documents indicating the activities had been completed.

During the meeting, the home’s activities director admitted she did not have the time to do all the assigned activities with the residents, at which point the conversation was halted. Shortly after the meeting, Brooks was allegedly written up for harassing the activities director in the meeting.

The lawsuit suit claims one of Brooks’ other concerns was that the executive director and the director of nursing at that time were falsifying documents stating that residents were being provided meals and showers when they were not. Those documents were then sent into Medicaid for reimbursement of services and to the state of Iowa for verification of eligibility to remain certified as an assisted living center. Medicaid and others then paid the home for administering services that were never actually rendered, such as activities, showers and meal service.

Brooks alleges she also noticed residents of the home were not receiving adequate care and oversight, and that the home was allowing one nurse aide to study for school on the overnight shift rather than care for residents.

Under that aide’s care, the lawsuit claims, one resident fell and broke her wrist; another fell and hurt her legs; and a third fell and broke her shoulder. Another resident in that aide’s care allegedly had an unexplained fall, hit her head, and shortly thereafter died.

Brooks also had concerns about residents left to sit in urine and feces for extended periods of time; residents left in bed all day; residents not being provided with meals; and residents who had allegedly been improperly assigned to assisted living although their medical needs exceeded that level of care.

On Nov. 13, 2019, the lawsuit alleges, Brooks called the Iowa Department of Human Services’ hotline to report concerns with resident abuse and neglect. Later, she allegedly reported her concerns to the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, which oversees Iowa’s long-term care facilities.

She alleges that although she was a mandatory reporter of abuse, she was fired by Windsor Manor in retaliation for voicing her concerns. Her lawsuit seeks unspecified damages from the home and its owner, Forster Senior Living, and the home’s executive director, Lyuba Vitale.

In court filings, the defendants have denied any wrongdoing and stated that Brooks was disciplined after the October 2019 staff meeting “for unprofessional conduct.”

A trial is scheduled for Nov. 28, 2023.

Iowa Capital Dispatch is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Iowa Capital Dispatch maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Kathie Obradovich for questions: Follow Iowa Capital Dispatch on Facebook and Twitter.

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