April 01, 2008
Ask the legal expert
Attorney John Durso, Ungaretti & Harris LLP
The raiding of resident trust funds and theft of insurance checks by staff are perhaps the two most significant fraud/embezzlement problems in long-term care. What is your advice for guarding against them?
One of the most common types of abuse in skilled nursing facilities is financial in nature. To guard against theft, a facility should take proactive security measures when screening and hiring employees. A facility should perform a background check on all applicants and also implement alcohol and drug screening for applicants after the facility makes an offer of employment.
The facility should also implement a number of procedural safeguards. Specifically, for any withdrawal or receipt of funds in a resident trust account, there should be a requirement of two employee signatures. A double signature requirement will increase employee accountability regarding the handling of employee funds and minimize the risk of embezzlement. In addition, the facility should provide a monthly statement of the trust account to the resident, and where possible, a duplicate copy should be sent to a trusted adult guardian or relative.
In cases where there is suspected financial abuse, the facility should promptly investigate and report the incident. To foster the reporting of all types of abuse, a facility should consider implementing an anonymous and confidential reporting system. Delays in reporting can compromise evidence and put employees' and residents' safety at risk. Moreover, the facility should not hesitate to report employee theft to the police.
In summary, a facility should look to implement a variety of hiring, procedural and reporting policies that provide safeguards minimizing the risk of employee theft and embezzlement in resident trust accounts.