State board: Nursing facilities must check employees for criminal history

Candy Chan

In a 180-degree turnaround, a state board will require health care agencies and nursing schools to check the criminal records of all potential employees and students who might care for patients.

The Criminal History Systems Board, which regulates the Criminal Offender Record Information (CORI) system, voted Wednesday to reverse a ruling last month that restricted the screening process to hospital officials.

Public Safety Secretary Kevin Burke, who heads the board, urged the March vote be overturned.

“We know we have to protect people’s privacy, but in this case, it is very clear that we recognize the attempt of protecting privacy severely affect public interests,” Burke said.

Under the reinstated regulation, nursing facilities are required to do a CORI check on people who might care for patients directly.

W. Scott Plumb, the senior vice president of Massachusetts Extended Care, the state’s largest trade association with long-term-care facilities, said the checks are crucial to ensure the safety of vulnerable patients, including children and the elderly.

“If our member providers are unable to do CORI checks in time to place a temporary staff worker, they either jeopardize the safety of their residents or leave residents short-staffed,” Plumb said.

Some schools and home-care agencies had resisted the move, concerned about the administrative and financial burden.

“It would be hugely burdensome and expensive for a nursing facility to individually CORI every agency staff person prior to placement at their facility,” said Plumb.

More than 50 people representing health care and long-term care providers attended the State House hearing.

“I think it is an appropriate move,” said Michael Bertoncini, a Boston labor and employment attorney. “The policy put the burden on those agencies who need further access of students and applicants’ criminal records.”

A motion that would grant a fee waiver to private nursing schools submitting CORI checks for students was tabled for further review and cost estimates.

The Patriot Ledger