Most Nursing Homes Have Employed People With Prior Convictions
Ninety-two percent of U.S. nursing homes have employed at least one person with one or more criminal convictions, and one out of 20 nursing home employees has had at least one criminal conviction, according to a report released last week by the HHS Office of Inspector General, HealthLeaders Media reports.
OIG reviewed information from criminal history records held by the Federal Bureau of Investigation from a database known as the FBI Interstate Identification Index.
The report was based on a random sample of 260 nursing facilities from 15,728 facilities certified to receive federal reimbursement for administering care to Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries starting June 1, 2009.
The report found that:
- Employees were convicted of crimes that included assault, battery, rape, theft and driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol;
- 44% of employees with convictions were convicted of crimes against property;
- The number of individuals with at least one criminal conviction employed by the facilities ranged from one to 66;
- Most of the convictions occurred before the employees began work at their current place of employment; and
- The employees were hired even though most facilities reported conducting background checks.
OIG noted that its estimates might be "conservative" because they did not include criminal convictions if the agency could not identify the person (Clark, HealthLeaders Media, 3/3).
Major Issue in California
In California, issues related to the fitness of in-home caregivers and nursing home workers have been in the spotlight during the past year.
Last year, California's Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes released a report finding that about 20 workers barred from providing care to seniors in nursing homes were caring for seniors at other eldercare facilities in the state.
Although the Medical Board of California lists arrest records and disciplinary actions against physicians on a public website, there are no similar public reporting resources for nursing assistants who receive licenses from the state Department of Public Health (Jewett, California Watch, 3/7).
In the report, OIG urged CMS to define employee classifications for workers who have direct access to patients and work with states to develop a list of state and local convictions that would prohibit an individual from working in a nursing facility.
While federal law does not require facilities to conduct state or federal background checks on prospective or current employees, federal regulations do prohibit Medicare- and Medicaid-eligible nursing facilities from employing individuals found guilty of "abusing, neglecting or mistreating residents" (HealthLeaders Media, 3/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.