Each year, thousands of New Mexico families make the difficult decision to place a loved one in the care of a nursing home. In doing so, they must trust that the facility has thoroughly vetted its employees, ensuring they don’t have a history of abusive behavior or criminal activities. To help make this process easier, a U.S. senator is pushing to give nursing homes access to a national background checks database.
On Oct. 22, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, a Democrat from New York, introduced legislation that would allow nursing home facilities to use a national database that tracks criminal charges, malpractice claims and disciplinary actions filed against employees. Currently, medical boards, law firms and hospitals are allowed to use it, but nursing homes are not. Instead, most nursing facilities hire private investigation firms to check FBI records, which don’t include malpractice and disciplinary claims.
According to Gillibrand, allowing nursing homes to access the system would save money that could be used to improve resident care. It would also provide facilities with more accurate information about employees, reducing the risk of inadequate care or abuse. The senator, who recently dropped out of the U.S. presidential race, said she was inspired to introduce the bill after reading numerous reports about nursing home neglect and abuse. The legislation has already garnered bipartisan support in the Senate, but it has yet to find a sponsor in the House.
Family members who suspect their loved one might be the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect could contact an attorney for assistance. The attorney may examine the details of the case to see if there is cause to take legal action. If so, legal counsel might suggest filing a lawsuit seeking compensation for damages.