A decision from Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller’s office on May 27 reverses an earlier decision to keep secret the names of people fired from care facilities for abusing elderly and disabled clients. According to The Des Moines Register, the new decision comes nine months after the state first began to limit access to the information.
The Register reports that records with names of caregivers fired for abuse were sealed beginning last August based on a new interpretation of a state law that has been on the books for 17 years, which specifies that judges are obligated to keep “unspecified types of abuse information” confidential. Prior to the new practice of sealing records, the names of Iowa caregivers fired for abuse were provided to Iowa Workforce Development, which could disclose them publicly.
Sealing the records eliminated public access to information such as names of workers fired for abuse, their employers, and cities where abuse occurred, making it difficult for families considering nursing home facilities to examine a facility’s history of safety. The Register reports that recently sealed cases included incidents involving a patient death, and the financial exploitation of a patient by a caregiver who took about $1,000 in cash and gift cards from a nursing home resident.
The new ruling allows public disclosure of the names of workers fired for abuse, their employers, and related agency records, but maintains the confidentiality of state investigators’ abuse reports, to protect the identity of nursing home residents involved in abuse situations. The decision also gives the public the right to review documents such as care facility inspection reports. The Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals keeps a database of more than 18,000 nursing home inspection reports, which is accessible to the public online.