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Home aides ethics standards set

Published (3/11/2010)
By Lauren Radomski
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As a parent of two boys with special needs, Beth Bower relies on 24-hour assistance from home health aides.

While Bower and her husband have had positive experiences with many aides, the couple made a startling discovery in October 2008: an aide working the night shift had repeatedly failed to feed the two boys, both of whom use slow-drip feeding tubes. The elder son, who was recovering from surgery, may have gone up to four months without nightly feedings.

“I believe if we hadn’t have figured it out, he would have died,” Bower told the House Licensing Division March 4.

Bower’s experience prompted HF3070, which would require home health aides to complete coursework on ethical practice prior to employment. Aides would also need to meet continuing education standards, and providers would be required to establish policies for drug and alcohol testing.

The division took no action on the bill, which does not have a Senate companion.

Rep. Kory Kath (DFL-Owatonna), who sponsors the bill, sees the legislation as a preventative measure that could deter the kind of maltreatment reported by the Bowers.

“This bill is a starting point,” he said. “It’s a recognition that we do need to do something with home health aides, how it is that they are promoted throughout the state and specifically, how they are trained.”

The Minnesota HomeCare Association supports the concept, but has some concerns with how the bill is drafted, said Kevin Goodno, the group’s government relations director. He pledged to work with policymakers and other stakeholders as the proposed legislation is refined.

Kath’s bill complements ongoing work by the Department of Health to streamline licensing for home health aides and ensure the quality of consumer care, said Susan Winkelmann, assistant division director for the Compliance Monitoring Division. The department is also looking at ways to close enforcement gaps and shorten the response time to complaints, she said. The aide terminated by the Bowers worked for another family during the several months leading up to her license revocation.

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