Kilmartin: Expand Background Checks for Nursing Homes

Mar 7, 2013

Attorney General Peter Kilmartin
Credit Kristin Gourlay / RIPR

Rhode Island Attorney General Peter Kilmartin wants to institute a national background check for nursing home workers. Federal grant money – and some extra costs for nursing homes – are at stake.

Right now, only state background checks are required for people who want to work in long term care facilities like nursing homes. But the Attorney General wants to take advantage of a provision under the Affordable Care Act that creates a national background check program for these workers. Kilmartin says Rhode Island’s General Assembly has one last chance to pass the legislation needed to qualify for the federal funding to set it up.

State nursing home association spokeswoman Virginia Burke says her members are in favor of the program.

“I think people need to be reassured that crimes by our staff against our patients are very, very rare. But why not take a step that could make it more rare.”

But Burke says they’re concerned about the cost of those individual background checks, which could add up if nursing homes have to repeat them every few years for employees they’ve already hired.

Burke says her members worry that the program – once a one-time check—could end up costing them much more than they originally thought.

“Then we learned very recently people would have to undergo those checks every three years. And the reason is because there are maintenance costs for the infrastructure that is being set up," said Burke. "And it doesn’t really make sense to have people go be fingerprinted again every third year just to pay for the cost of the system.”

The legislation is scheduled to be considered today in the General Assembly.