Social worker fired for leaving injured woman on the floor of her house

An Ankeny social worker fired for leaving an injured client and alone on the floor of her house is not entitled to unemployment benefits, a judge ruled.

According to state records, social worker Michael Van Gorder, 48, worked for the non-profit social service organization Immanuel from January 2021 until the first half of June 2021, when he was fired. .

On June 9, Van Gorder performed an in-home assessment of a client, arriving at the woman’s home at 8:30 am. Van Gorder found the woman lying on the floor by her bed, wearing only panties. incontinence. The client was soiled with excrement and complained of a broken ankle.

Van Gorder reportedly conducted his social worker assessment, but did not provide the woman with clothes or clean the feces from her body. He also did not check his ankle to see if it appeared broken, or call 911, or notify his employer of the situation.

According to administrative law judge Darrin Hamilton, who subsequently reviewed the case to determine whether Van Gorder had committed malpractice, Van Gorder “made his assessment and when the client was dissatisfied with him and he said to go, he left her as he found her. “

Forty minutes after Van Gorder’s departure, a nurse from Emmanuel stopped at the client’s home and found the woman. Van Gorder was fired the next day.

At the subsequent hearing to determine whether Van Gorder was entitled to unemployment benefits, he did not deny the allegations against him but argued that he had done nothing wrong. Based on Hamilton’s findings, Van Gorder claimed it was not his job to clean clients, assess their injuries, or report any injuries immediately.

At the hearing, Hamilton later reported, Van Gorder “kept referring to the client being a stage three alcoholic, with death in the next stage, and (said) that it is not long before death “. The judge reported that Van Gorder appeared to suggest that the client’s condition “exempted her from being treated with basic dignity and respect.”

Hamilton rejected Van Gorder’s claim for unemployment benefits, arguing that he had committed professional misconduct and had shown “insensitive disregard” for his client’s well-being.

The Iowa Board of Social Work reports that Van Gorder’s license is currently in good standing with the state, with no public record of any disciplinary action.

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