Earlier this week we told you about a troubling story that local Dallas news outlet WFAA is running: convicted criminals are eligible to work as Certified Nurse Aides (CNAs) in Texas nursing homes. As we discussed in that blog, it has come to our attention that there are more than 200 aides, certified and currently working in North Texas nursing homes that have violent criminal histories. As we are sure you know, we immediately asked ourselves how this was even possible. The answer? Loopholes in Texas laws and regulations. Shockingly, the majority of these nurse aides work in Texas nursing homes completely legally. There are also a handful of aides whose criminal histories should make them ineligible to work in local nursing homes, but they were somehow able to slip through the cracks.
According to the WFAA investigation, there are several loopholes in Texas laws that are allowing for these individuals to work in nursing homes. Here is a look at these oversights and how they are impacting our nursing home patients:
- Failure to perform thorough background checks – The first problem that is contributing to past criminals being able to work as CNAs is the state’s lax background check requirements. The Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) is only required to conduct a criminal background check on applicants who are seeking initial certification. According to information from WFAA, these checks fail to uncover criminal convictions on a regular basis.
- Background checks are not required on re-certification – The second problem is that while Texas requires CNAs get re-certified every two years, they do not have to undergo another background check. These additional background checks are supposed to be conducted by nursing homes, which rarely happens, unfortunately. So, nurse aides to become certified and then are later convicted of a criminal charge can simply go back to work when they are released from prison without anyone checking to see if they are still eligible. This is a serious problem and a reason for many convicted criminals being able to work in North Texas nursing homes.
- Texas’ law surrounding deferred adjudication problem – The third and final loophole in Texas law that is a serious problem is the regulation that says if you’ve committed a serious or violent crime but never received a final conviction, you are eligible to become a nurse aide. So, CNAs who are known violent criminals, gained deferred adjudication, and completed the terms of their probation to avoid jail time can easily gain employment as a nurse aide.
These are serious problems with the law that are putting our nursing home residents in danger, resulting in an increased number of elderly abuse cases. While we expect Texas lawmakers to look into reforming nursing home regulations in order to improve quality of care in 2018, we believe something must be done now. To learn more about nursing home abuse in North Texas or if you have any input on this particular story, please contact Wormington & Bollinger today.