Florida’s Advocate for Long Term Care
Providers and the Elders They Serve

Letter to the Editor: Report Misses the Mark – Florida Nursing Homes Ahead of the Rest on Background Screenings

Submitted March 3, 2011
By J. Emmett Reed, CAE
377 Words

Florida’s nursing homes are committed to providing quality care, which begins with ensuring residents are receiving the care they need in a safe and secure environment. The recent article on the Office of Inspector General report on criminal history of nursing home workers fails to point out that Florida’s nursing homes are ahead of the nation when it comes to criminal history screenings for employees. Since 1998, the State of Florida has required facilities to conduct extensive checks, both at the federal and state level. Direct care workers have been undergoing a Level 1 background check, which uses the Florida Department of Law Enforcement statewide database, as well as, depending on their residency status, a Level 2 background check, which includes a search of the FDLE and FBI databases. Additionally, facility owners, administrators, financial officers and certain direct care workers undergo Level 2 checks.

Last year, Florida Health Care Association, which represents over 500 of our state’s nursing homes, worked with lawmakers to ensure that background screening legislation continued to safeguard residents without limiting providers’ access to a qualified workforce. The law was changed and all employees or contractors who provide direct personal care or personal services, as well as employees with access to resident living areas or residents' property must have the Level 2 FBI check completed before they can begin work with vulnerable adults.

We appreciate that the OIG report looks at the current process and identifies some of the shortcomings that currently exist. Florida Health Care Association is continuing to work with legislators today to strengthen the current background screening law by eliminating the patchwork system through a cross-sharing of screening results among state agencies. At the same time, it’s important that, as Florida’s baby boomers continue to place an increased demand on long term care services, providers don’t lose access to qualified employees and individuals eager to enter the workforce aren’t delayed. The time it currently takes for vendors and state agencies to process the results must be expedited. 

Our hope is these fixes can be resolved in the coming legislative session. In the meantime, nursing homes will continue their commitment to providing quality care by ensuring that the most capable, honest employees are the ones caring for our most vulnerable seniors.

J. Emmett Reed, CAE, is Executive Director of the Florida Health Care Association, state’s first and largest advocacy organization for long term care providers and the residents they serve.