Bill seeks nationwide background checks for nursing home workers

A bill introduced in the Senate last week as the Patient Safety and Abuse Prevention Act of 2007 would mandate a nationwide background check for employees of nursing homes and other long term care facilities. While many states already require background checks within the state, the new bill would integrate the state background check with the FBI’s national database of criminal history records. The goal of the bill would be to prevent physical or sexual abuse of seniors by ensuring that those with violent criminal histories are kept out of our nation’s nursing homes.

Because of the ad hoc system of background checks that each state has independently developed, those with violent criminal histories may be able to avoid detection and continue working in nursing homes simply by moving to another state. Pilot programs have been implemented in a handful of states with instant success in reducing the risk of nursing home abuse. In the pilot program’s first year in Michigan, for example, 150 people were flagged by the nationwide background check when they otherwise would have been free to find employment in a nursing home or other long-term care facility.

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