Governor Signs Important Health Care Legislation into Law
Last year, the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals charged two Iowa Health System nurses with dependent adult abuse. The charges were made without warning, and the nurses had no means to appeal before their names were placed on the state's registry of dependent-adult abusers. These actions immediately prevented the nurses from working in their hospital or any other health care facility.
Thanks in part to the efforts of the Iowa Hospital Association and Iowa Health System, legislation providing greater protection for our employees in this area recently was signed into law by Gov. Chet Culver. Iowa Health System’s work on this issue was accelerated in the summer of 2009 when it was identified as one of the organization’s top legislative priorities. Steps taken by Iowa Health System to increase the likelihood of success included:
- Providing information about the risk to our nurses at every legislative breakfast held at our hospitals throughout the state late last year.
- Supplying valuable information and support to the senators who championed this issue in the state senate.
- Contacting the appropriate lawmakers to educate them on the importance of this issue to our health care providers and why it should move forward.
The legislation, which was approved unanimously by the Iowa Legislature in March, spells out the rights of health care providers, including that they be told in writing when they're being investigated and why, that they may decline to speak to investigators and that they have the right to have an attorney present in an interview.
The new law also makes it the responsibility of the health care facility to conduct its own investigation when there is an allegation of abuse. The facility then will decide what, if any, employment action should be immediately taken. Except in emergencies, health care providers’ names cannot be placed on the central registry until their cases are completed by the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals, so long as the care provider files an appeal of the abuse finding within 15 days.
The passing of this law allows Iowa’s care providers to perform their invaluable duties in a fair work environment. New, clearer guidelines should ensure that due process and adequate representation will be a part of any future investigation. Most importantly, these changes should reduce the fear of unjust accusations and punishment and should lead to care providers who feel trusted and who ultimately provide better care.