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Published: Saturday, 9/17/2005

When bad hires happen

MICHIGAN is taking the extra step to protect some of its most vulnerable residents, the elderly and disabled, with a bipartisan package of bills that would require anybody providing care for them to undergo background checks. It s a sensible approach.

News media The Blade included have presented reports in the past on nursing home conditions and occasional abuse of the elderly residents. Any abuse is despicable, of course, but it s especially so when the victims are those least able to protect themselves. Most care facilities try to protect their patients, but sometimes bad hires happen.

These bills are intended to keep that from occurring. The measures would require background checks for anyone working in a nursing home or who cares for senior citizens or the disabled in certified home health agencies, hospices, psychiatric hospitals, and for personal care agencies.

Luckily for Michigan, the checks won t bust its chronically strapped budget. Federal funding will pay for the checks and the information would be entered into a federal data base.

The extensive proposals would also slow the process of hiring anyone previously convicted of a felony in connection with harming the elderly.

Before such persons could be considered, a minimum of 15 years must pass from the time their sentence and parole ended. That may be harsh, but tough measures are required.

Although similar bills have been introduced in the Michigan Senate, those in the House target more than just nursing homes. This package of bills puts Michigan ahead of the curve at the national level, said Janet Olszewski, state community health director. She s right.

Michigan should act, and other states should follow.

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