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Local Editorials

Where is the oversight?

My column for this week was written, and then Sunday’s Des Moines Register absolutely mirrored my theme. 

Their editorial on the Opinion page was “Too Often, state fails it’s vulnerable.”  With their excellent editorial, I had to make some changes to my column.

The editorial was primarily related to the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo, and the horrible problems that have recently occurred in that state institution.  Yet, the writers also remarked about our elderly. 

I know for a fact that Iowans are outraged about the horror stories that relate to the treatment of both our youth and elderly, whether in state institutions, or in private facilities.  The point of their article was that “Iowa has a serious problem caring for its most vulnerable citizens.”

How true that is, for the responses I’ve received from my recent columns on Bob Queener and the Department of Human Services have resulted in calls and letters from across the state, and several from out-of-state.

The major atrocity is that state government has eased up on the regulation of private-sector institutions “caring” for our elderly, adjudicated children and disabled Iowans.  The Iowa Department of Inspection and Appeals is responsible for inspections, yet they have cut many employees whose job was to inspect and oversee the activities of hundreds of nursing homes, many of them for-profit businesses. 

After all, wasn’t the mantra from the last election that the state should cut the size of government?  Then came the realization that the department responsible for oversight of conditions where our parents and other loved ones are living is no longer doing an adequate job. 

In many cases, it’s downright inhumane and criminal.  And that is the challenge we in the legislature will have this coming session, and that’s to demand through appropriations to existing agencies that adequate personnel are there to do the job. 

The legislative branch has long been informed that Iowa should have no less than 27 long-term care ombudsmen, yet we have the disgraceful number of eight.  Two additional positions were vetoed by the governor this year.

It was Abraham Lincoln who stated, “The function of government is to do those things for the citizens that they are incapable of doing for themselves.”  I think of Lincoln’s admonition often.

Quoting the Register, since I could not say it better, “Iowa has repeatedly rejected adequate government oversight of places that hold the lives of Iowans in their hands.  That should scare anyone who plans on growing older, has a loved one with a disability or who cares about the values we should share as a society.”

The times have changed, and in most cases, we no longer care for our elderly in our homes.  There are many reasons for that, yet the results for some are such that will haunt them until their final day.

If government fails to provide the protection to those least able to do so themselves, then chances are, no one will.  This is a massive problem in Iowa, and one that must be solved.

• • •

Any questions or comments, e-mail me at or call (515) 975-8608. 

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