WDAY: The News Leader

Published February 05, 2010, 03:13 PM

Background check on nurse's assistant didn't reveal criminal history

Lake Park, Minn. (WDAY TV) - Becker County authorities today arrested the man who allegedly stuffed a sock in the mouth of a nursing home resident in rural Lake Park. As we first reported Thursday, 36-year old Quantel Morris was a nurse’s assistant at Sunnyside Care Center on Highway Ten in Lake Park.

By: Kevin Wallevand, WDAY

He faces mistreatment charges following the allegation that he put a sock in the mouth of a 98 year old female patient. Morris is in custody tonight in the Becker County Jail. This latest incident raises questions of background checks and hiring of nursing home employees.

It was a store employee in downtown Detroit Lakes today who recognized Morris and called authorities. Easing fears of investigators that Morris had left for Illinois, where he has warrants out on drug and theft cases.

“We always do background checks.”

At Sunnyside Care Center, administrators say a background check on Morris was done before he was hired months ago. The nursing home, just like all others in Minnesota, is required to use a statewide system to check criminal history. But the hitch is that Morris' criminal background came out of Illinois.

“That is the issue all nursing homes face. We utilize this background that the state mandates and we use it because it is a good system and if it is not picking up outside states that is something the state needs to look at.”

Besides the Becker County investigation into Morris, the state of Minnesota Department of Health does its own report into how this incident happened, and what could have been done to prevent it.

One other family that had a loved one at Sunnyside Care Center says it previously complained about Quantel Morris. The family of Neena Johnson, now deceased, says Morris refused to put her oxygen tube back in her nose and was cursing at her. The family says it complained to a supervisor, but Morris was kept on as an employee.

“I hope people start paying attention that their loved ones are getting in nursing homes and on top of things because family involvement is really important.”

Officials with Sunnyside would not comment on the Johnson family's allegation.