State officials are now overseeing the operation of a northwest Iowa nursing home and it will be shut down by February 1.

The Abbey in Le Mars has operated for 45 years, but federal officials will not longer make Medicare and Medicaid payments to the nursing home because of a “history of serious quality issues.” Dawn Fisk of the Iowa Department of Inspections and Appeals says records indicate “The Abbey” has been on a federal watch list for some time.

“The Abbey has been a ‘special focus facility’ since August of 2014 and typically the process for a ‘special focus facility’ is over the course of two years as having been identified in that program, the facility will be able to improve the quality of care and be able to graduate from that program,” Fisk says.

The Abbey, she says, failed to make the necessary improvements during that probationary period.

“They’ve had a history of substandard care that’s been identified over the course of those two years,” Fisk says.

The nursing home has 52 beds, but currently has only 23 residents. Fisk says staff in two state agencies as well as the private insurance companies that now manage Iowa’s Medicaid program are working to find new homes for them.

“The Department of Inspections and Appeals will continue to have a presence in the facility until all residents have been moved to other suitable residential settings,” Fisk says. “After February 1st or after the facility actually closes — after all residents have been moved, we won’t have an on-site presence anymore.”

Staff from the state’s long-term care ombudsman will meet with patients and their families next week at The Abbey to answer questions. Fisk says it’s been seven years since government officials have ordered that an Iowa nursing home be closed.

According to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services website, The Abbey rated “much below average” on health inspections and had been fined at least 10 times for substandard care.

(Reporting by Dennis Morrice, KLEM, Le Mars)