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Western Iowa care facility leads state in COVID-19 deaths, despite sanctions
Dunlap facility among 18 in Iowa reported to have at least 20 resident deaths due to COVID-19. Three facilities are in Linn County.
Clark Kauffman - Iowa Capital Disptach
Feb. 18, 2022 6:00 am
In the days leading up to his death due to a COVID-19 complication, 90-year-old Jack Hawn of Dunlap in western Iowa was struggling to breathe.
The father of three and the founder of Hawn Oil Co., Hawn was a resident of Dunlap Specialty Care, a small Harrison County nursing home that would eventually claim the distinction of having more COVID-19 deaths than any other care facility in Iowa.
State records show the staff at Dunlap Specialty Care diagnosed Hawn with COVID-19 on Oct. 6, 2020, and that within a week, 46 of the home’s 48 residents would test positive for the virus.
Hawn’s physician was worried enough that he reportedly ordered the staff to have Hawn admitted to a hospital. But a nurse at the home decided Hawn’s condition wasn’t urgent enough to warrant the use of an ambulance. According to state inspectors, she decided to arrange for a Medivac transportation service to take Hawn to the hospital instead.
The nurse later told inspectors that when she discovered the Medivac service was too busy, she called one of Hawn’s daughters and told her that if she wanted her father seen by a hospital physician, she and “two strong men” would have to come pick him up and take him there themselves.
The daughter was unable to do that, so Hawn remained in the nursing home. After two days, his oxygen levels dropped below 80 percent, and the facility had him taken by ambulance to a hospital. He died there, five days after admission.
Federal officials fined Dunlap Specialty Care $62,283, alleging the home had failed to take the necessary steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, in part by using employees who had returned to work prematurely after being diagnosed with the virus.
The home also was accused of failing to provide Hawn with his physician-ordered care, and of failing to use adequate personal protective equipment to slow the spread of the virus.
State records indicate Hawn’s doctor told inspectors he was “very upset” about the death, noting that he had instructed the home to immediately send to the hospital any residents in Hawn’s condition whose family was seeking physician care. “They are to call 911 and send them to the ER immediately,” the doctor told inspectors.
Data from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services shows that Dunlap Specialty Care currently leads the state in resident deaths due to COVID-19. Although it is a small facility, with roughly 48 residents, there have been 36 resident deaths in the home due to the virus over the course of the pandemic, CMS says.
The home is among 18 Iowa nursing homes that each have had 20 or more residents die from COVID-19, according to CMS. To date, those 18 homes account for 480 COVID-19 deaths in Iowa.
The federal data, which recently was improved to correct errors and make it more accessible to the general public, shows just how big a role nursing homes have played in the pandemic. In Iowa, the COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes account for 34 percent of all the coronavirus-related deaths statewide.
The data also shows that while some larger nursing facilities have had relatively few outbreaks and infections, smaller homes that may have been lax in adhering to virus mitigation guidelines have been hit hard by the pandemic.
The interim administrator of Dunlap Specialty Care declined to comment on the deaths, and referred all questions to the home’s corporate owner, Care Initiatives of West Des Moines. The company’s spokesperson, Tesha Rainey, did not respond to calls and emails from the Iowa Capital Dispatch.
In addition to the Dunlap facility, other Care Initiatives homes with a relatively high death toll from COVID-19 include Atlantic Specialty Care in Atlantic, with 31 deaths; Northcrest Specialty Care in Waterloo, with 27 deaths; and Ravenwood Specialty Care in Waterloo, with 26 deaths.
Deaths at Iowa nursing homes
Here’s a look at the 18 Iowa care facilities, including three in Linn County, that are reported to have at least 20 reported resident deaths due to COVID-19, along with the total number of residents occupying the home at its most recent inspection:
• Dunlap Specialty Care, Harrison County: 36 deaths, with an occupancy of 48 residents.
• Good Samaritan Home of Davenport, Scott County: 32 deaths, with an occupancy of 101 residents.
• Great River Care Center, Clayton County: 32 deaths, with an occupancy of 35 residents.
• Atlantic Specialty Care, Cass County: 31 deaths, with an occupancy of 68 residents.
• Hiawatha Care Center, Linn County: 31 deaths, with an occupancy of 101 residents.
• West Ridge Care Center, Linn County: 31 deaths, with an occupancy of 43 residents.
• Vista Woods Care Center, Wapello County: 30 deaths, with an occupancy of 37 residents.
• Northcrest Specialty Care, Black Hawk County: 27 deaths, with an occupancy of 70 residents.
• Ravenwood Specialty Care, Black Hawk County: 26 deaths, with an occupancy of 102 residents.
• Luther Manor Communities, Dubuque County: 25 deaths, with an occupancy of 61 residents.
• Good Shepherd Health Center, Cerro Gordo County: 24 deaths, with an occupancy of 163 residents.
• Azria Health Longview, Harrison County: 24 deaths, with an occupancy of 66 residents.
• Good Samaritan Home of Ottumwa, Wapello County: 23 deaths, with an occupancy of 106 residents.
• Good Samaritan Home of Indianola, Warren County: 22 deaths, with an occupancy of 84 residents.
• Azria Health Rose Vista, Harrison County: 22 deaths, with an occupancy of 40 residents.
• Woodland Terrace, Bremer County: 22 deaths, with an occupancy of 94 residents.
• Living Center West, Linn County: 21 deaths, with an occupancy of 84 residents.
• Aspire Of Muscatine, Muscatine County: 21 deaths, with an occupancy of 56 residents.
The story was first published by the Iowa Capital Dispatch.
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