TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — House lawmakers in Tallahassee passed a bill Friday that will close a loophole when it comes to background screenings for healthcare employees.

A last-minute amendment added to HB 713 will make battery against a patient or resident a disqualifying offense for employment in certain healthcare facilities and for certain healthcare licenses.

This will protect our most vulnerable who are receiving care in healthcare facilities from being victimized or violated while receiving treatment or long term care.  We trust that the healthcare personnel is there to do their job and not prey on the patients as a potential victim. If they have a questionable history, we need to fully investigate all claims and not allow them to further their career in a field meant to nurture and care for people who are in these healthcare facilities for any length of time, whether it is 1 day or for the rest of their life. We need to protect them,” said Rep. Chris Latvala in a statement to 10Investigates.

Latvala is the representative who added the amendment. Earlier this week, the same amendment was also added to HB1143. This amendment would also flag any employee during the screening process if that person has been arrested or is awaiting final disposition.

This bill was filed after 10Investigates looked into a licensing loophole in the healthcare system. Our investigation uncovered a local CNA accused of inappropriately touching patients was able to continue to work from place to place to place. He also pleaded no contest to battery of a patient and worked three more jobs before being arrested again in September of 2019 for touching patients inappropriately and in several different facilities dating back to 2016.

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Rep. Chris Sprowls spearheaded the push for change to make sure something like this never happens again. He pushed to have the amendment added earlier this week and again Friday morning when he noticed another House bill moving through a bit quicker.

“I want to thank 10 News for discovering this loophole and HHS Chairman Ray Rodrigues for acting so quickly to close it. Government’s primary obligation is to protect its citizens from criminals and predators.  Our seniors or anyone vulnerable or incapacitated in a nursing home should not have to live in fear of or suffer the indignity of being abused.  Today, the Florida House took a major step toward by strengthening the protections afford to all patients and residents in our hospitals, nursing homes and other licensed facilities," said Representative Chris Sprowls (R-Palm Harbor), Chairman of the House Rules Committee and Speaker-designate of the House.

HB713 will now make its way to the Senate floor sometime next week.

HB1143 will be heard on the House floor on Monday.