Arkansas officials are putting the Web to work to address a critical shortage of healthcare workers. The site will connect health providers to the elderly and disabled, The Arkansas Democrat Gazette reports. The state's Aging and Adult Services Division plans to spend $85,000 of a federal grant to recruit “direct-care workers,” encourage them to sign up for the online registry and increase awareness of it among potential employers, department spokesman Julie Munsell said.
But advocates for the elderly voiced concern that the Web-based system won't include safety filters.
Terrie Root, an attorney at the Arkansas Disability Rights Center in Little Rock, said the concept of putting caregivers in touch with those who need them is “great.”
“But, you know, we can’t gamble with our elderly and disabled,” she said. “There’s no process in place to protect the public,” Root said. “If you’re going to have a state agency sending something out, they need to be the ones who are providing the safe product, backing it up and standing guard over our people.”
Indeed AASD director Herb Sanderson said the registry is just a matching tool. Clients would have to run their own background checks through the State Police and pay the $25 fee.“We were afraid that we would give the impression to the public that if these people had undergone criminal background checks, that they would be fine, you could hire them, they had been prescreened, and we don’t want to give that impression at all,” Sanderson said.Although users will have to sign a disclaimer, advocates were concerned that people won't understand the implications.“People don’t know what that [disclaimer ] means,” Root said. “I don’t know, and I’m a lawyer.”The sites has been improved with ideas from the Disability Rights Center, including a link to the Internal Revenue Service, a link to interviewing and hiring tips, and a link to certified-nursingassistant training.