Nursing home fingerprint checks urged
By Frank Main, Crime reporter
A janitor with a record of sexual abuse gropes an elderly woman in a nursing home.
A housekeeper with theft convictions steals from residents’ rooms.
A nursing assistant working under an alias strikes a patient – before the nursing home discovers a criminal background under a different name.
Such crimes are a real possibility in
Hurley, who represents abuse victims, said a few simple changes in state law could prevent such incidents. He is pushing for required fingerprint checks for every employee of nursing homes in
Pamela Orr, administrator of
Orr also said the nursing home failed to check with the state to see whether a woman hired as a practical nurse held a license. On Feb. 18, police arrested the woman, Mernell Turley. Turley, suspected of swindling money from an elderly resident was charged with using a forged license to get her job.
Current law requires nursing homes to conduct background checks of applicants for nursing assistant positions, but not for workers who do not provide direct patient care, such as janitors, cooks, and housekeepers.
Nursing homes submit applicants’ names to the State Police to conduct background checks. Hurley said using fingerprint checks for every applicant would reduce the risk of an applicant slipping through the cracks with an alias.
The Elder Law Initiative of Loyola University School of Law supports Hurley’s recommendations, said Marguerite Angelari, director of the clinic.
And Terry Sullivan, executive director of the Illinois Council on Long-Term Care, said his association of 220 nursing homes would support name checks for every employee, including janitors and housekeepers. But he questioned the extra financial burden that fingerprint checks wold place on nursing homes. The State Police charge $7 for an electronic name check and $12 for an electronic fingerprint check.
Cook County Public Guardian Patrick Murphy said he would not support legislation that leads to barring non-caregivers because of criminal records.
A General Accounting Office study released last week examined nursing home abuse in