Nursing home worker fired after helping resident call 911 for ambulance

By: - November 14, 2022 10:20 am

An Iowa nursing home worker who was fired after telling a resident to call 911 in order to get to the hospital is denied jobless benefits. (Photo by Getty Images)

An Iowa nursing home worker who was fired after telling a resident to call 911 in order to get to the hospital is not entitled to unemployment benefits, a judge has ruled.

According to state records, Kandus Jellison worked as a nurse aide for Oakwood Specialty Care in Albia when she was fired in June for insubordination. She later applied for unemployment benefits, which led to a hearing before Administrative Law Judge Sean Nelson.

According to Nelson’s findings, a resident at Oakwood accidentally propelled himself out of his wheelchair and onto the floor on June 22. The man had brittle bones and injured his legs in the fall.

The charge nurse and director of nursing determined that it was not an emergency and ordered X-rays to check for bone fractures. Two hours later, the man was still waiting for the X-rays and was complaining to Jellison that he was in considerable pain and wanted to go to the hospital.

Jellison then went to Director of Nursing Olivia Oshel and asked whether the resident had the right to go to the hospital. Oshel reportedly replied that they did not yet know the extent of the man’s injuries and reminded Jellison that four separate orders had been made to have X-rays taken.

In response, Jellison reportedly turned to the resident and instructed him as to how he could dial 911 and ask to be taken to a hospital.

According to Nelson’s findings, Oshel then told Jellison, “Get the f— out of the building until you can do your job right.” Jellison allegedly refused and was escorted to the parking lot. She then told the home’s administrator she wanted to go back inside and get the phone number of the state agency that oversees nursing homes so she could report the incident.

The administrator allegedly refused to let Jellison inside and there was an altercation. According to Oakwood officials who testified at the unemployment hearing, Jellison yelled, “We don’t provide care, and this is a s—y facility,” and then used an expletive to describe her superiors. She was subsequently fired.

Nelson recently ruled Jellison was not entitled to unemployment benefits, stating that although she lacked the same level of medical expertise as the charge nurse and the director of nursing, she “was so confident in her assessment” of the resident that she contradicted her superiors and used profanity to describe them. “Such behavior is not reasonable and constitutes misconduct,” Nelson ruled.

Jellison said Friday she is appealing that ruling, adding that she recorded her conversation with Oshel and the resident, knowing it was likely to lead to a confrontation with her boss. She said she didn’t use profanity to describe her superiors and was only attempting to inform the resident of his rights since he had specifically asked to go to the hospital.

“I said (to the resident), ‘You have a cell phone in your room. I want you to go to your room and I want you to dial 911, and I want you to tell them to dispatch an ambulance here to get you,’” Jellison said Friday. “And that’s exactly what he did. It’s not like I gave him a phone, or that I dialed 911 for him. He did it himself.”

Other Iowans whose unemployment cases were recently decided include:

Jeri Fardal, who was fired from Handicap Village, a home for the intellectually disabled in Cerro Gordo County, in August. Fardal was fired after threatening to deliberately make “errors” in passing mediations to patients so that she’d no longer be assigned that task. A few days after she allegedly made that threat, she made two medication errors with clients. Fardal denied any intent to dispense medications incorrectly, but Administrative Law Judge Blair Bennett ruled that although Fardal “may not have intended to have the medication errors, her statements, and her past history of few medication errors make this unlikely.” Fardal weas denied benefits.

Brekka Walker, who worked as a patient-access specialist for the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics until she was fired in April. According to state records related to Walker’ unemployment claim, Walker’s domestic partner had impregnated a woman who was a UI patient, and the partner then coerced Walker into disclosing confidential patient information related to the pregnancy.

Walked allegedly accessed the patient’s personal health information eight separate times between January and April and then shared that information with her partner, a violation of the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996. The hospital learned of the issue only after the patient called the compliance department and filed a complaint. Walker didn’t dispute the hospital’s findings and was denied unemployment benefits.

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Clark Kauffman
Clark Kauffman

Deputy Editor Clark Kauffman has worked during the past 30 years as both an investigative reporter and editorial writer at two of Iowa’s largest newspapers, the Des Moines Register and the Quad-City Times. He has won numerous state and national awards for reporting and editorial writing. His 2004 series on prosecutorial misconduct in Iowa was named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for Investigative Reporting. From October 2018 through November 2019, Kauffman was an assistant ombudsman for the Iowa Office of Ombudsman, an agency that investigates citizens’ complaints of wrongdoing within state and local government agencies.