More background checks on nursing-home workers

Current state law requires background checks for private nursing home and assisted living staffers who deal directly with residents of the facilities.

The law prohibits such facilities from knowingly hiring anyone for those positions who has been convicted of a variety of felony offenses — including theft, drug crimes, sex crimes and abuse or exploitation of an adult.

However, no such rules apply to other employees — custodians, food service workers and the like — of these facilities. But as Kentuckians for Nursing Home Reform founder Bernie Vonderheide told the Herald-Leader's Valarie Honeycutt-Spears, those employees also have easy access to residents in most nursing homes or assisted living facilities, which means they have just as much potential for abusing or exploiting patients as the staffers who are covered by the current law.

Sen. Tom Buford, R-Nicholasville, filed legislation this week that would extend the requirement for background and hiring limitations to all employees of these facilities.

Approval of this measure, Senate Bill 44, should be one of the "no-brainers" of the 2011 General Assembly.