Q&A with Patricia Rogers
Law requires stringent screening of certain health care employees
Q: New legislation soon takes effect requiring nursing homes and other health care providers to use much more stringent screening processes for filling certain jobs. What are the requirements and which employers are affected?
A: The Oklahoma Long Term Care Security Act (HB 2582) prohibits certain employers from hiring, retaining, or granting clinical privileges to individuals who've been convicted of designated criminal offenses, sanctioned by their applicable licensing body, or listed on offender registries. The act mandates that the employers perform a screening and fingerprint-based national background check prior to employment. A “name-based” criminal background check by the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation will no longer be sufficient. The new requirements apply to adult day care centers, residential care homes, nursing facilities, continuum of care and assistant living facilities, hospice programs, Medicare-certified home health agencies, intermediate care facilities for disabled adults, staffing agencies and independent contractors who provide employees to staff these facilities and programs, and certain state employees.
Q: What kinds of jobs will require greater screening scrutiny?
A: Jobs that will or may involve one-on-one contact with patients on an ongoing basis, including access to the patient or resident's property, medical information or financial information.
Q: Can you generally describe the screening and background check process?
A: Employers must screen applicants through the OK-SCREEN web portal (onbc.health.ok.gov) using the applicant's name, address, date of birth and other demographic information. The initial screening will check a number of registries. If results show the applicant preliminarily qualifies, the applicant within 10 days must agree to have fingerprints taken at an authorized site for a national criminal background check. The employer pays $19 for the fingerprint-based check; the applicant pays $10 to the fingerprint vendor. An employer may conditionally employ individuals before receiving the fingerprint results for up to 60 days, if they sign statements saying they're not disqualified for employment under the act and acknowledge they'll be terminated if criminal checks don't conform with the act. An employer must provide direct on-site supervision of a provisional employee. The Oklahoma National Background Check program will monitor any subsequent disqualifying arrests.
Q: When does the new background check program begin?
A: Affected employers may begin using the new screening Saturday. The employers must use OK-SCREEN to screen job applicants and authorize fingerprint-based national background checks by the following dates: March 1 (adult day care centers and residential care homes); April 1 (intermediate care facilities for disabled adults); May 1 (nursing facilities); June 1 (continuum of care and assisted living facilities); July 1 (Medicare certified home health agencies); Aug. 1 (certain other employers identified in the act).
PAULA BURKES, BUSINESS WRITER