Nursing Homes Hiring Criminals, Government Report Says

Low federal standards; inconsistent state regulations; and a general lack of strong, standardized processes have created lapses in the types of employees hired by <"">nursing home facilities, a problem about which we have long been writing.

For instance, the majority of nursing homes—90 percent—hired staff with criminal convictions, said CBS News citing a recent government report in which government investigators conducted background checks on all nursing home employees who were working on June 1, 2009 at the 260 nursing homes nationwide. About 43 percent of the criminal convictions were for crimes that included “burglary, shoplifting, writing bad checks,” according to the report, said CBS News.

The report revealed that 92 percent of the facilities had at least one employee on staff with a criminal conviction, said CBS News, and “five or more individuals” with criminal records at just about half of the facilities. The report was authored by the Inspector General for Health and Human Services.

The report indicated that nearly all—98 percent—of the facilities said that they conducted criminal background checks on employees, said CBS News. Nevertheless, the report revealed that seven sex offenders were working at five separate nursing homes at the time of the study.

Only 43 states mandate some sort of criminal background check and only 10, a state and an FBI check, said CBS News. Checking in both formats enables nursing homes to see convictions over state lines; when both formats are not used, which occurs in the majority of the cases, the inconsistency enables criminals to go unnoticed in the checking process.

Under President Obama’s new health care law, a national program for states was created that standardizes federal and state nursing home background checks for staff who work with residents; however, the program is voluntary, noted CBS News. Ten states received federal funds toward implementation of the program in which the government funds the cost of the background checks, CBS News pointed out.

“There are still potentially dangerous gaps in the system used to determine who will be responsible for providing care for many people during vulnerable points in their lives,” said AARP spokesman Jim Dau in a statement to CBS News, adding that the new law is step, but “more should be done to build on this work.”

On a related issue, we have previously written that a study conducted at UI’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences found that only half of all nursing home social workers actually have a social work degree; unbelievably, 20 percent do not have a four-year degree of any kind; two-thirds do not belong to any professional organizations; and the vast majority—62 percent—are not licensed in social work.

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