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How many criminals work in nursing homes?

According to a recent government report, an estimated 90 percent of nursing homes in the United States have at one time hired an individual with a criminal record. Considering that nursing homes are supposed to take care of vulnerable people, that figure is deeply disturbing.

A government investigation of 260 nursing homes in the U.S. in 2009 showed that 92 percent of those facilities had at least one current employee who had been previously convicted of a crime. Nearly 50 percent of those nursing homes had at least five employees with criminal backgrounds and 43 percent of individuals with a criminal record who were working in a nursing home had been convicted of property crimes. Five of the nursing homes involved in the study employed seven registered sex offenders, heightening concerns about potential nursing home abuse.

Director of Public Policy for the National Consumer Voice for Quality Long-Term Care, Janet Wells, would like to see a national mandatory background check program. Wells believes that this will help nursing homes detect if a potential employee has an abuse record from another facility.

While most states require candidates to submit to a criminal background check, only 10 states require both a state and federal background check. A federal background check notifies the hiring manager if the candidate has had additional convictions outside of the state.

Mark Parkinson, the President and CEO of the nursing home industry association called American Health Care Association, said that they have been pushing for a national background check system for nearly 20 years. He states that each state has its own qualifications for what is considered to be a relevant crime and that a background check may not notify the facility of crimes that are not listed as "relevant." This means that other abuse records could go unnoticed during the employment process.

A national background program would give nursing homes a complete record of any prospective employee's criminal history, which would likely result in fewer instances of nursing home abuse.

Source: CBS News, "Over 90 percent of nursing homes hire criminals," Laura Strickler, 3/2/2011

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