As a Pennsylvania nursing home lawyer, I know criminal backgrounds are an ongoing problem in Pennsylvania and across the nation. Criminal background checks are required by state law in Pennsylvania and 42 other states, but the databases used can be incomplete and the employees sometimes start before the check is complete So I was extremely interested to see a report about a new federal study saying the vast majority of nursing homes have hired a convicted criminal in the past. As CBS reported March 2, the federal Department of Health and Human Services also found that about half of the homes had hired five or more people with criminal convictions.
The Inspector General of HHS conducted the study by checking names of about 35,000 employees at 260 facilities against the FBI’s list of convicted criminals. The study found that five percent of all nursing home employees examined had at least one criminal conviction. The majority of the crimes, at 44 percent, were property crimes — theft, shoplifting or bouncing checks. Another 12.5 percent were convicted of crimes against a person, such as assault and battery. Perhaps most disturbingly, seven of the 35,000 employees were registered sex offenders. And 16 percent of the convictions had come after the employee was already working in nursing homes. The inspector general recommended that nursing homes use a nationwide criminal background check program. In fact, such a program was passed along with the Obama administration’s controversial health care bill, but each state’s participation is voluntary.
As a Philadelphia injury lawyer, I believe it would best serve patients if participation were mandatory. I’ve written here several times about criminal convictions for nursing home employees, and one theme I’ve noticed is incomplete background checks. Convictions from Pennsylvania might show up in Pennsylvania’s database, but convictions from New York or New Jersey might not. Some of this is simple bad record-keeping, but as CBS noted, only 10 of the states that require background checks require use of the FBI database. That means someone with a problematic history, including a history of nursing home abuse, sexual assault or opportunistic theft can slip under the radar simply by moving to a new state. In my opinion as a Philadelphia medical malpractice lawyer, this puts nursing home patients at an unnecessary risk. Nursing homes could be legally and financially liable for any Pennsylvania nursing home abuse that sloppy background checks fail to prevent, so careful background checks are also in their best interests.
If your family has been victimized by nursing home abuse, neglect or exploitation in Pennsylvania, don’t wait before you call Rosenbaum & Associates to learn about your rights and your legal options. To set up a free consultation, you can reach us at 1-800-7-LEGAL-7 or send us an email today.