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How home nursing agency vetted Albrecht

STORY BY MEG LAUGHLIN, (Week of May 16, 2013)

The gruesome death of an elderly Indian River Shores man – who police say was left to die by his health aide – raises a wide range of questions about how the caregiver came to be hired for the important job of caring for an 81-year-old man with dementia.

Certified nursing assistant Gina Albrecht, 37, is charged with the aggravated manslaughter death of her patient, George May of Marbrisa..

Albrecht worked for Nightingale Private Duty Nursing, founded by island resident Yvonne Sue Stutzke, who sold it to the highly regarded Visiting Nurse Association of the Treasure Coast in 2008.

Albrecht went to work for May at his barrier island home in June 2011.

Before hiring Albrecht as a certified nursing assistant, Nightingale  checked her certification and her state license and asked for a Level 2 screening from the Florida Agency for Healthcare Administration in Tallahassee. 

That screening required getting Albrecht’s fingerprint and matching it with national arrest and conviction records to see if she had a record anywhere in the country. The screening included checking records of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to see if she had ever been arrested, charged or convicted of a crime within the state.

The record showed she had been arrested in 1996 at age 20 for shoplifting and convicted of a misdemeanor. But a misdemeanor conviction for shoplifting is not grounds to disqualify a CNA from agency employment. 

So, Albrecht passed the screening requirements and Nightingale received no information on the shoplifting conviction.

Instead, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, the Tallahassee government agency that conducted the screening, simply notified Nightingale that Albrecht passed the screening.

Nightingale had 30 days to request details of the fingerprint search and the FDLE record. But because no one complained about Albrecht during that time, the company did not request details.

“Our procedure followed the law,” said Michael Gardner, spokesman for the VNA, which owns Nightingale.

Florida Agency for Health Care Administration press secretary Shelisha Coleman agreed with Gardner.  “Details of what we find in a Level 2 Screening can only be requested by a hiring agency within 30 days of hiring if there is a complaint,” she said.

“Because no one complained about the CNA in those 30 days, Nightingale did the right thing by accepting our ruling that the CNA passed the screening,” she added.

By the time police, neighbors and May’s friends complained about Albrecht, the health aide no longer worked for Nightingale and was an independent CNA, with no agency monitoring her behavior.

If she had a felony arrest or conviction, Nightingale would not have hired her.