Lax regulations in Texas nursing homes put residents at risk.
According to News 8 investigator Charlotte Huffman (who spent several months analyzing state data), many nursing homes in Texas employ Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs) who have a history of violent crimes.
In Texas, apparently due to loopholes in regulations, someone who has plead guilty to serious and/or violent crimes (e.g., continuous sexual assault of a child, injury to the elderly, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, robbery) can still become a Certified Nursing Assistant. These CNAs often seek employment at nursing homes, putting them at the bedsides of some of our most-vulnerable residents.
According to the WFAA report, state health officials are only required to perform a one-time (less-than-thorough) state background check when initially certifying CNAs, and no new background checks are required for re-certification.
The sister of one victim recalled the time her loved one was sexually assaulted by a nursing home CNA two years ago in order to show the public that it can happen to anybody. Following the sexual assault, the patient was taken to Parkland Hospital where she tested positive for a sexually transmitted disease. At the time of the assault she was 66 years old.
The victim’s family filed a civil lawsuit against the nursing home (The Rehabilitation & Wellness Centre of Dallas), and doctors who treated the victim stated that is was “undeniable that Ms. Harris was infected while she was under care at the facility.” If this fact is proven in court, according to the nursing home, “nurse assistant Rodney Jolly Shead is responsible.” Although the employee had previously been convicted of two counts of assault causing bodily injury, he was never formally charged with any criminal action related to the alleged sexual assault.
WFAA’s investigative report also tells the story of another patient who suffered abuse at another nursing home in Texas (Windsor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center). One of the CNAs hired by this nursing home — who also had a prior criminal record — was fired after it was discovered that he had shared videos on social media showing an elderly woman in his care being made to rub feces on her face. The employee was later charged with injury to an elderly patient.
Loopholes don’t let nursing homes skirt liability.
Sadly, in the State of Texas, it is perfectly legal for a nursing home to hire employees with criminal backgrounds (even if that history includes elder abuse). Texas regulations allow a person to plead guilty to violent crimes, yet still become certified as a nurse’s aide.
Due to the fact that most responsible employers would shy away from hiring a CNA with a criminal history, they often end up working in less-desirable fields — such as nursing home care facilities — because these facilities are generally looking for CNAs who will work for cheap. Until nursing homes are held accountable for their negligent hiring practices, this isn’t likely to change.
The rate of nursing home abuse cases in Texas is four times higher than the national average, and WFAA’s investigation uncovered almost 200 nurse’s aides in North Texas alone with serious or violent criminal histories.
Unfortunately, filing a lawsuit is often the only way to hold these nursing homes accountable for their negligence. They may be technically allowed to hire CNAs with violent criminal records, but this fact does not absolve them of liability when their employees abuse their patients. Not only can a lawsuit result in compensation being paid to the victim, it can result in widespread changes to how a facility (or an entire industry) operates moving forward.
Revelation prompts lawmaker to take action.
State Representative Bill Zedler (R-Arlington) sits on the Texas Legislature’s Public Health Committee, and told News 8 that he wants a more-thorough FBI background check done on all nurse’s aides before they’re certified.
Rep. Zedler says that if he’s unable to reform the nurse aide program via regulatory changes, he will file legislation on the topic during Texas’ next legislative session in 2019.