An unfortunate involuntary discharge

An Iowa nursing home involuntarily discharged a 65-year-old Navy veteran for nonpayment. According to a Jan. 25, 2014 article on USA Today's website, he refused to apply for Medicaid. The 20-year veteran had a life-threatening blood infection, insulin dependent diabetes, high blood pressure, congestive heart failure and other ailments. The nursing home staff person dropped him at an apartment—20 miles away from the nursing home—with no furniture, phone or food.

At the apartment building, a female tenant saw "Navy vet" being dropped off and checked on him. When she saw the empty apartment, she brought him a bowl, eating utensils, a microwave and a blanket. The apartment manager brought him some food.

The tenant said that she was not nice when she called the nursing home's administrator, who told her Navy vet could walk to the nursing home across the street for meals. The administrator told her that he was “'manipulative” and wanted others to think he could not care for himself. In disbelief, the tenant said: "He cannot walk to the refrigerator. Are you for real?" She told the administrator that Navy vet had served his country and someone needed to take care of him.

When the tenant heard Navy vet reading his Bible during the night, she called the local sheriff's department. It just so happened that the sergeant who came to investigate knew Navy vet and could not believe the home discharged him to an apartment. The sergeant had assisted Social Services to remove him from his home and admit him to the nursing home in July 2013, because he could not care for himself. The officer called the nursing home to find out what happened and was referred to the administrator. His calls were not returned.

Because of his condition, Navy vet was sent to a local hospital with respiratory distress and transferred to another hospital for more intensive care. He told the doctors he did not remember anything after he was dropped off at the apartment until he regained consciousness in the hospital. On November 11, 2013, he was returned to the nursing home that had discharged him on November 1.

The nursing home's Florida-based management company did not condone what happened. Their representative said it was an unfortunate incident.

State inspectors initially proposed a fine of $8,500 for the nursing home. But the state fine was set aside when the federal government imposed an $8,850 fine. When the nursing home decided not to appeal, the fine was lowered to $5,752.

The nursing home did not inform the ombudsman of Navy vet's impending involuntary discharge. He also was not told that he had the right to speak to the ombudsman and appeal the discharge. The nursing home, however, was not fined for either violation.

Navy vet said he would like to live at a veterans home in Iowa. The facility's management company said they would assist him with that.

Commenters on this article were outraged. They felt it was unconscionable that this happened to anyone, let alone a 20-year military veteran with so many medical problems.

The administrator responsible for his discharge is no longer employed by the nursing home.

Topics: Advocacy , Clinical , Executive Leadership