Abuse list is used to protect patients in nursing homes

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FARGO, ND (Valley News Live) Nursing home abuse happens. Just last week, we told you about how one nurse aide was charged with assault for pulling the hair and hitting a 90-year old elderly woman at a Twin Cities senior care facility.

Did you know there is a system that the government, the states and nursing homes use to prevent abuse from happening over and over again? Valley News Live looked into how the abuse list is used and the flaws that come with it.

"If you mess up or screw up whatever you want to call it, it may cost you your career as a certified nurse aide because once you are on the list, you are on the list for life" said North Dakota Department of Health, Director of Division of Health Facilities Bruce Pritschet.

Nurse aides work with your loved ones daily at skilled nursing homes. They help them eat and get dressed. If an aide gets caught neglecting or abusing a senior they can be put on the Certified Nurse Aide (CNA) abuse list in North Dakota.

All states have similar lists. In North Dakota, it has names, types of abuse committed like sexual, physical, and theft.

"Each state has own method of making same type of information available to skilled nursing facilities," said Pritschet.

Pritschet oversees the list in North Dakota. He says the list was started in the 1990's and people are only placed on the list if found guilty.

"Most are health department investigations, some are police investigations especially the theft, " explained Pritschet.

On the CNA abuse list for North Dakota, there were 47 cases of neglect, 52 thefts, 59 physical abuse cases along with 33 verbal abuse, 30 mental abuse, and 6 sexual abuse cases.

Pritschet says people can challenge their name going on the list, once their name is on the list for abuse; it is on there for life. But there is one exception: Neglect. He says that is the one form of abuse that can be removed from the list.

"You purposefully aren't answering their call bell, or purposefully neglecting to do something," said Pritschet. "If we validate the neglect, after a year they are eligible to petition their name from that list. Not all succeed in getting their name removed."

"Why is there that option allowed?" asked Reporter.

"If committed a second time then they get to remove it. Neglect is something that can be very simple. I mean you may forget to put socks on a resident as you get them up to go to the bathroom and they may slip. It is very difficult to prove that they willfully did it. In that light, and fact that we have trouble keeping a workforce in North Dakota it is something we asked the federal government to consider," stated Pritschet.

Pritschet says several states have similar rules, like Minnesota.

Minnesota also has an abuse list but it is called Nursing Assistant Registry. The registry is broken down into abuse, neglect and misappropriation of funds. Their registry system is very similar to North Dakota’s. The difference is how they categorize abuse and that the public must call to submit a request for information on the registry.

Aging Life Care Management Director Carmel Froemke says all nursing homes are supposed to consult the list as they hire staff.

"You would be pretty safe, so I don't think as a family you need to worry about that," explained Carmel Fromke.

Pritschet says when he sends out an updated list he often doesn't include the name added or removed so facilities have to look through the list and check the names. Federal laws state the list is supposed to be check once a year by facilities.

"We do that to protect the vulnerable adults that are in the nursing homes. There are over 6,000 nursing home skilled beds in the state and they contain our most vulnerable adults," said Pritschet.

Other health care facilities have access to the CNA abuse list but are not required to use it.