Archive for Thursday, October 15, 2009

LMH training more nurses to evaluate sexual assault victims

Nurses available to collect evidence would be increased from five to 17

Lawrence Memorial Hospital, after being publicly criticized for sending rape victims to other hospitals, has been training more nurses. LMH has seen more rape victims already this year than in all of last year.

October 15, 2009


Sexual Assaults in Lawrence: Not an uncommon crime

In the past five years, more than 450 adult sexual assaults have been reported in Lawrence. There's a rape in Lawrence every four days. Each case represents an instance where someone’s life has been irrevocably changed., the Lawrence Journal-World and 6News are taking a deeper look at what those numbers really mean.

Lawrence Memorial Hospital is training more nurses to perform sexual assault exams, after coming under fire recently for sending two rape victims out-of-town to be examined.

Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson claimed the hospital “turned away” two college age victims on Sept. 20, because an inadequate number of sexual assault nurses was available to perform the exams.

Since then, two additional nurses have been trained to perform rape exams and another group is scheduled for a week of training later this month, said Gene Meyer, LMH president and CEO.

“The recent events and activities of the past couple of weeks has unfortunately shed a negative light on (the nurses’) efforts and those of LMH, and I regret that that has taken place,” said Meyer, who defended his medical staff’s actions during an interview this week at the hospital. “I frankly think it’s inappropriate.”

Patients’ interest

Two of the four rape victims that showed up Sept. 20 at LMH’s emergency room were referred to Stormont-Vail Hospital in Topeka for exams, Meyer said, but only after they were treated for physical and psychological symptoms.

He said it was necessary to transfer the rape victims, who were 18 and 19, because three rape victims arrived at LMH in the same 3-1/2 hour period and only one sexual assault nurse was on duty. Four other nurses trained to do the exams weren’t available.

“Lawrence Memorial has not and will not turn away any patient from our doors, never, and that did not occur on Sept. 20,” Meyer said. “The emergency department is very proud of the care that they deliver to all of our patients. As unfortunate as the transfers were … they were done in the best interest of the patient.”

However, the transfers prompted Branson to write Meyer, accusing the hospital of placing the community at risk by not examining the patients at LMH. He said it was an ongoing concern that needed to be addressed, as rape victims sometimes feel ashamed about having to go to another hospital and that evidence can be lost before they get to the other hospital.

Handling three sexual assault patients simultaneously is something most hospitals in the country aren’t equipped for, Meyer said.

To help avoid having to send patients to other hospitals in the future, he said LMH hopes to eventually boost the number of sexual assault nurses capable of performing the exams from five to 17.

The nurses — who also have other duties — volunteer to collect information for “rape kits,” which assist law enforcement in prosecuting suspects. Meyer said the kits are labor-intensive and can take between three and four hours to complete.

Meyer said nurses from multiple departments within the hospital have volunteered for training since the district attorney’s letter became public.

In addition, Meyer said all registered nurses in the emergency room will also receive a one-day training to learn how they can help rape victims in the event multiple victims show up simultaneously again.

Taking steps

Branson said he’s pleased the hospital is taking steps to avoid having to send patients elsewhere for treatment.

“If this training and everything comes to fruition, I think it’s a great step by the hospital,” Branson said. “They’ve recognized the problem and they’re obviously trying to take some steps to fix it so we have the coverage for the community and we have what we expect out of a great community hospital.”

Increasing the number of nurses trained to do the exams also comes as the hospital sees an increase in the number of rape victims coming in. In all of 2008, 35 patients showed up to the emergency room for evidence collection. So far this year, there have been 49 patients.

During each year, hospital records show six patients — most of them children — were sent to other hospitals for examination. Meyer said he and Branson have agreed it’s best for children to be examined at Children’s Mercy Hospital, where medical workers have more expertise and sensitivity in caring for children.

It’s possible, Meyer said, adult rape victims could be sent to another hospital for collection of rape kit evidence.

“LMH, regardless of what the situation might be, is not in the position that we want to transfer any patient to another setting, regardless of the diagnosis, regardless of the situation,” Meyer said. “But, because we always try to act in the patient’s best interest, there may be situations that exist that require us to do so.”


nlf78 8 years, 6 months ago

I'm glad they are training more nurses to handle these situations. Never should a victim be asked to go to a different hospital, they have been thru enough before they even get to a hospital.

Bob Harvey 8 years, 6 months ago

Excellent response to an identified, perceived problem. Kudos to LMH and their dedicated nurses and staff. Now wouldn't it be nice if the folks from Lawrence would never allow these newly trained nurses to get to use this specialty training?

Boston_Corbett 8 years, 6 months ago

It is understandable that Gene Meyer wants to put a happy face on this and defend his management decisions.

But his statement is so strong it suggests to me he doesn't quite yet "get it." Especially if this has been a pattern.

backyardwino 8 years, 6 months ago

Why hasn't Branson come forward publicly with his apology to the hospital staff and the community that he politicized his letter to the LJ World without seeking the facts of the circumstances. His behind closed doors apologies (that actually took place) do little for those who just read headlines and this is all a thinly veiled attempt to be shown in the spotlight for publicity's sake. Shame on you Branson. Our hospital has done nothing wrong and to put it in terms of "turning victims away" the LJ World should have done a better job of investigating what really happened. Would it have been better for a rape victim to wait hours to be seen for such a crime? No hospital is set up for this situation and the LMH staff responded to the letter for the contingencies they had to deal with. The weeks following the initial report have seen LMH in a glowing light...maybe the LJW should have done their homework in the first place instead of retreating and playing damage control. Branson, your shortcomings in this county cannot be shaded by this wagging of the dog. Gene's answer to the community, newspaper and the DA is a solution to a problem that did not exist undera nything but grave circumstances. Thank you LMH staff for being a professional organization and maintaining the acumen that any community could possibly ask for

Homey 8 years, 6 months ago

"Branson said he’s pleased the hospital is taking steps to avoid having to send patients elsewhere for TREATMENT."

As should now be clear -- no one was sent anywhere for TREATMENT. LJWorld please stop printing or Branson please stop making that misrepresentation. The victims were sent elsewhere for evidence collection AFTER THEY RECEIVED MEDICAL TREATMENT. LMH is a hospital not a police station and evidence collection should not be the primary function of a hospital.

Enough already Branson and the LJWorld. As chief law enforcement officer of the county tell us what you are going to do about all these rapes Branson. LJWorld get on that story.

pissedinlawrence 8 years, 6 months ago

This comment was removed by the site staff for violation of the usage agreement.

beachmama 8 years, 6 months ago

Why would anyone actually think that Branson would come out from behind his screen with his apologies? Just because he admitted privately - and he did - that he was wrong and had jumped the gun with inaccurate facts doesn't mean that he's willing to go on record with it. (Doesn't mean he can look any of the people involved in the face either, for what that's worth). When you're offered a smoke screen you've got to take it, and if this in any way deflects attention away from his inabiltiy to prosecute rape victims, well then so much the better. Let LMH take the fall. Let the nurses take the heat. Why not? What IS his prosecution record, by the way? How successful has he been in trying sexual assault cases? Sounds like a J-W article to me. Or not. Reporting truthful facts doesn't seem to be a high priority there. Quite the opposite.

And for the record, the "other duties" that the sexual assault nurses have include full-time hospital employment. Doing rape kits is not a full-time job - it's something that people volunteer to do out of some misguided sense of compassion and "doing the right thing". It can be hard to remember this when the phone rings in the middle of the night, when family events are missed because of SANE call, when on-call hours double (triple, quadruple) because of community hysteria over reporting that has no basis in facts...when a public crucifixion takes place based on inaccuracies.

Here's a hypothetical thought. What if, in spite of absolutely phenomenal management and co-worker support, the SANE nurses were so demoralized by all of this that more than one of them was simply ready to walk? What if the aggravation just wasn't worth the effort? Who would train the "new" people? Where would the community be then?

CheneyHawk 8 years, 6 months ago

LMH CEO was very slow in this response. Should have happened weeks ago. I hope disaster response moves quicker than this @ LMH...

bearded_gnome 8 years, 6 months ago

LJWorld: buried in this article: sexual assaults are up this year much more than 50% over last yer!
by itself, a more useful article. and, do some actual investigation with researchers/officials/LPD and try to answer the question:
why?* just why are sexual assaults up so very dramatically?

I agree with the above, sloppy headlines/reporting on this issue. these victims were not "turned away" and Branson was obviously using inflamatory language.

why was he engaging in such? maybe because there's a whole file abinet full of cases he's inappropriately pled down, dropped, failed, prosecution on lower charges, etc. etc. etc.

is banson already worried about reelection and this is just a convenient way of propping himself up?

LA_Ex 8 years, 6 months ago

I was wondering the same thing. Why haven't we seen Branson's apology? He admitted that he "jumped the gun" and didn't seek out all the facts . I guess the LJW just doesn't consider that "news".

notjustastudent 8 years, 6 months ago

I agree with a lot of the posts here- it was absolutely mind-boggling to me that our DA would criticize the hospital when they were trying to do him a favor by making sure the evidence he received to prosecute these cases was legitimate. It's not that the hospital wasn't trying before- they were, but the new volunteers who have come forward were polarized by his unnecessary criticism. So I guess we can thank him for that.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.