Criminal history rate may be 10%, feds say

The 5% rate of employees with criminal backgrounds may be underestimated, according to the recent audit of Maryland long-term care facilities by the federal government. The figure may be as high as 10% because the databases used in the audit are incomplete, federal investigators say.

Even if just 5% of the work force has a criminal record, that’s still too high, says Thomas Roslewicz, deputy inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services, who presented the results of the audit to a congressional committee. The audit "demonstrated that there is no nationwide assurance that nursing home staff who could place elderly residents at risk are systematically identified and excluded from employment," he told the committee. He recom men ded strong federal oversight and increased collaboration with states.

Roslewicz said the state registries, found in 37 states, could be improved. Of the 37 registries, 94% did not initiate criminal background checks on those applying for certifi cation or licensing, 29% did not require prior arrest or conviction information on renewal applications, and 13% did not provide a penalty for making false statements on the certification or license application.

Of the 51 staff with convictions in the Mary land audit, 43 stated falsely on their job applications that they had not been convicted, and another four didn’t answer the question at all.

Federal officials endorse extensive use of criminal background checks. Roslewicz told the congressional committee, "We believe that criminal background checks offer long-term care facilities an important safeguard against hiring persons who abused or neglected vulnerable elderly residents or who have been convicted of other serious crimes."