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Federal Nursing Home Report Points to Staff Criminal Convictions

Royal Palm Beach nursing home abuse lawyers understand that a recently-released federal report indicates a startling number of disciplined nursing aides throughout the country have violent criminal pasts.

The report, prepared by the Office of the Inspector General for the Department of Health and Human Services, as mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (also known as “Obamacare”), was initiated to evaluate background check programs for nursing home employees throughout the country.

The Affordable Care Act established a background check program for nursing homes to choose to use it to screen potential employees. But it’s voluntary.

In an effort to learn whether the program is actually effective, the Inspector’s office requested that each state provide a complete registry of its nursing aides, as well as information on those who had been found to have committed abuse, neglect or theft while employed during fiscal year 2010.

What they found was that of the aides who had substantiated findings of abuse, neglect or theft, nearly 20 percent had prior criminal records. What’s more, those aides who had prior criminal records were far more likely to commit some wrongdoing while employed at the nursing home. In fact, those with substantiated findings of neglect or abuse were more than three times as likely to have had a prior criminal conviction and those found guilty of theft were more than 1.5 times as likely to have a criminal conviction.

A report released last year by the same Inspector General’s office indicated that some 90 percent of nursing homes throughout the country had hired at least one employee who had a prior criminal conviction.

This is not to say that individuals who have been convicted of a crime and have paid their debt to society should not be able to get a job. However, it is extremely alarming that we are putting these individuals in positions of caring for others, particularly when those convictions are for such offenses as battery, assault, theft and rape.

Obama’s health care law had sought to standardize both federal and state background checks on nursing home employees, and Florida is one of the 10 states that have received federal funds in order to implement it. And in fact, about 98 percent of nursing homes conduct background checks. But that doesn’t mean they can’t hire someone with a criminal history.

And this is where the results of the most recent study are so troubling. First, you have administrators who are hiring nursing aides with criminal and sometimes violent pasts to care for our elderly and vulnerable populations. Conversely, there were a number of nursing home aides who had substantiated claims but did not have a criminal background would not have been red-flagged as requiring particular supervision.

The President and CEO of the American Health Care Association, a nursing home industry association, had been quoted by media as saying that criminal databases aren’t always reliable. Plus, states and individual facilities have different requirements for what counts as a “relevant crime” that would prevent a convicted criminal from being hired.

The Affordable Care Act has allocated $160 million in federal funding to help states assist nursing homes in establishing better quality background checks. In order to receive the money, states are required to conduct three types of background checks:
1. A search of any state-based abuse and neglect registries, as well as similar registries in any other state where the employee lived previously;
2. A check of the state’s criminal history records;
3. A fingerprint-based FBI criminal background check.

The Inspector’s report indicated there were a total of 1,611 reports of substantiated findings in 2010. Of those, 563 were for abuse, 511 were for neglect, 466 were for misappropriation (or theft), 64 were for abuse and neglect, 4 were for abuse and theft, 2 were for neglect and misappropriation and 1 was for abuse, neglect and misappropriation.

Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Among Disciplined Nurse Aides, Criminal Records Turn Up, Oct. 11, 2012, By David Schultz, Capital Public Radio

More Blog Entries:
Lawsuits Underscore Nursing Home Abuse Cruelty, Aug. 10, 2012, Royal Palm Beach Nursing Home Abuse Lawyers Blog

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