Local News

Group Calls for Tighter State Rules on Health-Aide Hiring

Posted February 1, 2007 11:41 p.m. EST

An organization that represents nursing homes and health-care agencies is calling for stricter state regulations on hiring people with criminal records following a WRAL story about a woman victimized by a health-care home worker.

WRAL reported Wednesday about the arrest of Jeanette Wright, 53, on charges she opened credit card accounts using the personal information of Mattie Spruill, a 71-year-old woman for whom she cared while working for Carolina Staffing and Home Health Inc.

After Wright's arrest, WRAL was able to find out that she has been convicted of similar crimes and has served jail time. Her criminal record is nearly a dozen pages long and includes charges of financial card fraud, credit card theft, shoplifting, larceny, breaking and entering, forgery and larceny.

"She should have never been allowed to work in the in-home care industry or any industry like a nursing home or assisted living," said Tim Rogers, chief executive officer of the Association for Home and Hospice Care of North Carolina, an association representing home-care agencies. The group is pushing for tougher laws that would ban nursing homes, rest homes and home-care agencies from hiring someone with certain prior convictions.

"We cannot tolerate any of this type of activity. We need to strengthen the current law and change it and change it this year," Rogers said.

The state requires agencies to due background checks on workers, but stops short of prohibiting an agency from hiring someone with a criminal history.

"It's up to the agency to decide if they want to hire that person. There are no offenses that completely exclude someone from being hired or working for a home-care agency," said Jeff Horton, chief operating officer for the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services' Division of Facility Services.

Carolina Staffing administrator Ojimadu Israel told WRAL he was unaware of Wright's lengthy criminal history.

State officials said the first they heard about this case on WRAL. They said Carolina Staffing and Home Health Care is now under investigation for not reporting the allegations. The agency could lose its license.

Wright is accused of charging more than $11,000 in Spruill's name.

"I thought she was nice, talking about the Bible, talking about the church," Spruill said.