Part 2A six-month WFAA investigation found nearly 200 aides certified to
work in North Texas nursing homes have serious or violent criminal
Maybe most troubling, WFAA found that many certified nurse aides (CNAs) with criminal histories work in nursing homes legally.
But WFAA also found other CNAs who have been convicted of crimes that
should make them ineligible to work, yet slipped through the regulatory
cracks -- and continue to remain state certified and employable.
WFAA review found CNAs with arrests for crimes that include the
following: aggravated assault with a deadly weapon; continuous violence
against family; injury to a child; abandoning a child; aggravated
robbery; aggravated sexual contact with a child; and burglary.
WFAA analysis also, in a review of federal complaints, found Texas
nursing homes with an abuse rate four times the national average.
For advocates of the elderly, it’s disturbing.
not okay,” said Cortney Nicolato, chief executive officer of the Senior
Source, a Dallas nonprofit that conducted nearly 5,000 nursing home
visits last year to ensure residents were free from signs of abuse.
“Organizations like ours bust our chops every day to make sure that
older adults are being protected. We need the entire community doing the
So, why is that not happening on behalf of the state’s 92,000 nursing home patients?
Because there are three major oversight flaws, according to the WFAA findings.
Loophole 1: Inadequate initial background checks
The first involves the initial certification.
state requires DPS to conduct a criminal background check prior to an
applicant being certified. That’s different from Texas requirements in
other industries, for example, like child daycare in which a national
background check using fingerprints is required.
The WFAA review
found the DPS checks apparently fail to uncover various state
convictions. That’s resulted in nurse aide applicants getting certified,
though they should be barred for life.
Like Tiffany Simons, Daniel Badger and Johnny Lacy.
All three were convicted of crimes that should have prohibited them life from becoming CNAs.
Yet, they went to prison, got out, and then became certified.
None would talk to us on camera.
Loophole 2: No background check on re-certification
second flaw appears in the re-certification process. The state requires
a nurse aide to get re-certified every two years, yet does not require
regulators to re-check a CNA’s criminal background.
Instead, any further background checks fall to the nursing homes.
found individuals who commit crimes that should bar them from work –
and have their certification pulled - yet remain certified and
CNAs like Corwin Harrison, for example, gained his
certification from the state in 2003. But after initially being
certified, he was later convicted of aggravated assault with a deadly
weapon for attacking his girlfriend with a large kitchen knife and
trying to choke her, according to court and prison records.
The conviction for the crime should have barred Harrison - like other CNAs we found – for life from working as a CNA.
Harrison spent a year-and- a-half in prison, in 2012 and 2013, he got
out and worked as a nurse aide from 2014 to 2016, state employment
records. He even renewed his certificate in 2016.
out of an interview request, but told us he continues to work as a nurse
aide – though in private care. He acknowledged having a criminal past –
though did not discuss his specific crimes. He said any prior criminal
past does not necessarily affect one’s work.
Loophole 3: Deferred adjudication probation
third and most common loophole WFAA found is buried in the state's
regulations. It says if you commit a serious or violent crime, you are
eligible to become a CNA as long as you don’t have a “final conviction.”
means a nurse aide can commit a serious or violent crime, gain deferred
adjudication, and successfully fulfill the terms of their probation, to
avoid a “final conviction.” The individual, though often pleading
guilty to a serious or violent crime to gain probation, remains eligible
to be a CNA.
We found dozens of nurse aides who pleaded guilty to violent crimes.
But since they got probation, the law allows them to go back to work.
Wright is one of them. She pleaded guilty to aggravated assault with a
deadly weapon for trying to run someone over with her car.
don’t have any convictions of any felonies,” she told WFAA as she was
about to clock in at her job at a local nursing home this month.
That’s true. She got deferred adjudication and granted eight years of probation.
all, we found nearly 200 nurse aides whose records on the state’s nurse
aide registry are clean, but who have criminal histories for violent or
Many are, right now, working at the bedsides of vulnerable Texas nursing home residents.
have dementia, Alzheimer's, symptoms that cause them to have a lack of
communication,” said Ernest Tosh, an attorney who handles nursing home
abuse cases across the United States.
“They can't express exactly
what happened, which is why violent offenders should be screened out
from working in these facilities,” Tosh said. “They can physically or
sexually assault an individual and there be no repercussions because
that individual can't identify them or communicate what happened.”
others says there’s a reason nursing homes hire criminals. Susan Hodges
would know. She’s a former nursing home administrator.
demanding and very tough,” Hodges said. “I've seen the aides get hit in
the stomach. I've seen them get bit … I've seen them take a lot of
punishment. A lot more than you realize.”
At minimum wage, barely
above $7 an hour, a nurse aide is often left to clean, bathe and feed as
many as 30 residents at a time. That’s compounded by Texas’ lack of
minimum staffing level requirements.
A nurse aide could flip
burgers and make more money, Hodges said. This all adds up to a job few
are willing to do, and an industry that sets the bar low in order to
keep facilities staffed and profitable, experts like Hodges told WFAA.
WFAA asked Hodges what would happen if the state cracked down and actually barred criminals from working in nursing homes.
“It would be a huge hit because they would have to go to find another
pool of employees,” Hodges said. “I would say at least a fourth of
their staff would be gone.”
But others disagree.
our state needs to recognize that nursing homes are not as poor as they
claim to be,” said J.T. Borah, an Austin attorney show specializes in
nursing home abuse and neglect. “If the industry were to finance and
staff at the level they were supposed to, they could afford better
employees. They could have better applicants.”
Families of nursing
home victims agreed with Borah. Liz Harris has alleged her sister was
sexually assaulted in a nursing home by a man with past arrests.
not right,” Harris said. “I'm really appalled at that right now. And
the more I think about it, I'm angry. … What if it were their family
“You guys (nursing homes) should know better,” Liz
Harris added. “You're in the business of taking care of people and
that's what you really should be doing.”
WFAA asked the Texas
Department of Health and Human Services for an on-camera interview so
that we could show them the list of criminal nurse aides we’ve
uncovered. They declined that opportunity but expressed an interest in
reviewing the names WFAA found.
In 2018, lawmakers will take on
nursing home reform as one of the Texas legislature’s interim charges
to improve the quality of care for nursing home and assisted living
facility residents. The Senior Source has issued their recommendations
, which include “requiring annual background checks, at a minimum, for ANYONE working in long-term care facilities.”
Full Article & Source:
Criminal Caretakers: Hundreds of certified aides with criminal histories working in nursing homes