Care facility accused of neglect in Iowa woman’s death

Resident died after pressure sores progressed to huge, open wounds

By: - August 8, 2023 4:20 pm

Deanna Kay Mahoney (inset) was a resident of the Newton Health Care Center before she died of sepsis resulting from a bone infection. (Nursing home photo via Google Earth; inset photo courtesy of the Mahoney estate)

Editor’s note: This article includes graphic images that may be upsetting to some readers.

A central Iowa care facility is being sued for allegedly causing the death of a resident whose pressure sores progressed to huge, open wounds on her body.

According to a lawsuit filed this week in Jasper County District Court, Deanna Kay Mahoney was admitted to the Newton Health Care Center in June 2021. On April 18, 2022, she was transferred to MercyOne Newton Medical Center’s emergency room where the medical staff found a large skin ulcer, or open wound, on her buttocks and another on the heel of her foot. The emergency room physician reported that the wound on her buttocks was contaminated with feces and ran “very deep,” exposing muscle and bone.

Mahoney was then transferred to Iowa Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines for a higher level of care, where the staff photographed the wounds and admitted Mahoney to the critical care unit.

On May 6, she died at the hospital, with the immediate cause of death listed as sepsis, a blood infection, that resulted from sacral osteomyelitis, which is a bone infection near the base of the spine. She was 83 years old.

The wounds of Deanna Kay Mahoney, a resident of the Newton Health Care Center, were photographed by the staff at Iowa Lutheran Hospital. (Photos from Jasper County District Court records)

The lawsuit filed by Mahoney’s estate seeks unspecified damages for negligence. The defendants include Newton Health Care Center and its corporate owners, Newton OpCo and ManagerCo Prairie Rose. They have yet to file a response to the lawsuit.

A few weeks after Mahoney’s death, in June 2022, the home was inspected by the Iowa Department of Inspections, Appeals and Licensing as part of a routine, annual recertification process. While there, inspectors also investigated a backlog of six separate complaints against the facility, and three self-reported incidents, all of which were ruled substantiated.

DIAL cited the facility for 24 state and federal violations, but the inspectors’ report appears to make no reference to any deficiencies in Mahoney’s care. The violations were related to residents’ rights, abuse-and-neglect policies, resident care plans, quality of care, medication and treatment, pressure sores, insufficient nursing staff, insufficient support staff, unnecessary psychotropic drugs, medication errors, unsanitary conditions and infection prevention.

A state fine of $14,000 was imposed but was later reduced to $9,100 when the home agreed not to appeal the penalty. In 2020, federal officials imposed a $156,660 fine against the home. That was later reduced to $101,829 when the home agreed not to file an appeal.

In April, inspectors returned to Newton Health Care Center in response to four complaints, all of which were substantiated. The home was cited for four violations of federal regulations, including the failure to treat pressure sores.

The home’s plan of correction indicates that one of the two residents whose pressure sores were left untreated, resulting in exposed bone and muscle, has since died. The report provides conflicting information as to the fate of the second of the two residents, stating that the individual continues to reside there but also stating the resident is now “deceased.”

During the April inspection, a nurse aide told state officials “staffing was not good” at the home, residents did not receive the care they needed, did not get showers, and wound dressings were not being changed as ordered by physicians. She said it sometimes took 30 to 45 minutes to answer residents’ call lights.

No fines and citations were issued as a result of the inspection.

The Newton home has a one-star overall rating from the federal government, the lowest in a five-star rating system, as well as a one-star rating for its health-inspection results.

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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.