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Report: 12 caregivers had criminal pasts
A New Port Richey assisted living facility is cited for two violations and could be fined.
By THOMAS LAKE, Times Staff Writer
Published October 10, 2007
NEW PORT RICHEY - One sold drugs. Another stole a vehicle. Two more committed domestic battery. And all were hired, in a breach of state law, at the New Port Inn, an assisted living facility on Congress Street, to care for the old and sick.
That was the conclusion of state investigators who examined the facility's operations after an employee was charged with beating a patient last month, according to documents released Tuesday by the Florida Agency For Health Care Administration. In total, the review found that 12 of New Port's 57 caregivers had some kind of criminal history.
It is not illegal per se for such a facility to hire someone with a criminal past. But the state requires those with disqualifying offenses - including domestic battery - to apply for special exemptions.
That didn't happen here.
"The administrator did not obtain or attempt to obtain an exemption from AHCA for any of these staff members," the report says, "before placing them in positions of direct care to vulnerable residents."
In light of the latest findings, New Port was cited for two Class I violations - the most serious of their kind. The facility already has another Class I violation pending for assigning medication technicians to do what should be done by a licensed nurse: draw blood and fill needles with insulin. The facility faces fines of up to $10,000 for each violation, in addition to other punishments.
"The exact amount, and any further action, are still being considered right now," said Shelisha Durden, an AHCA spokeswoman.
The state's findings underline previous reporting by the St. Petersburg Times, which discovered that the facility hid employees with arrest records before state investigators arrived.
"The state's gonna come in," caregiver Rachel Trubey says a supervisor told her Sept. 20, just before firing her. "They're gonna be looking at employee records, they're gonna be breathing down our necks, and we'd just feel better if you weren't around."
Trubey has a domestic-battery plea on her record. She said the supervisor told her she could return to work "when this all cools down."
Officials from the facility have repeatedly declined to comment on the matter.
But Tuesday when a reporter called to speak with administrator Susan Hines, who took much of the blame in the most recent investigation, someone else picked up the phone.
She identified herself as Marjorie VanTassell, interim administrator.
"Susan is no longer here," she said.
Thomas Lake can be reached at email@example.com or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6245.