Archive for Friday, September 25, 2009

Efforts under way to close coverage gap in rape cases

Gene Meyer, Lawrence Memorial Hospital CEO and president, left, and Charles Branson, Douglas County district attorney, discuss efforts to improve services  to rape victims at LMH, Thursday at a news conference.

Gene Meyer, Lawrence Memorial Hospital CEO and president, left, and Charles Branson, Douglas County district attorney, discuss efforts to improve services to rape victims at LMH, Thursday at a news conference.

September 25, 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.

LMH president answers DA's complaints

The president of Lawrence Memorial Hospital answered the District Attorney's complaint that the hospital sometimes turns away rape victims. Enlarge video

Lawrence Memorial Hospital’s chief executive was on the defensive Thursday, after Douglas County District Attorney Charles Branson chastised the hospital for turning away rape victims.

“We have been, and will continue to be, committed to providing the best possible care that we can at Lawrence Memorial,” said Gene Meyer, LMH president and CEO. “Anytime that is questioned, or that we can improve upon that, our organization is 100 percent committed.”

Branson wrote a stern letter to Meyer this week, after two college-age rape victims were told to go to out-of-town hospitals last weekend so evidence could be collected.

The district attorney said LMH’s practice of sending some victims out of town for collection of evidence for “rape kits” — which prosecutors and investigators use to help solve the case — was putting the community at risk.

In his letter, Branson described multiple examples of sexual assault victims being sent from LMH to Stormont-Vail Regional Health Center in Topeka and Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, Mo. He also said police investigators were often referring victims to other hospitals because they thought LMH would refuse assistance.

Meyer and Branson met Thursday afternoon to discuss the issue, which the district attorney said had been occurring for years.

Meyer said the hospital was working to decrease a “coverage gap” in staffing of nurses certified to perform the sexual assault examinations. He said LMH also is working toward having a certified nurse available around-the-clock at the hospital.

The hospital has five such nurses who have completed or are in the process of completing certification. Meyer said he was unsure how many more nurses should be trained so LMH has maximum coverage.

Branson said his office has agreed to help the hospital recruit and train sexual assault nurses.

“Closing that gap is very, very important,” he said after their discussion, which took place in his office at the Douglas County Judicial & Law Enforcement Center. The two conducted a joint media briefing after their conversation.

“We will continue to work very hard, as we have in the past, to meet 100 percent coverage,” Meyer said.

A hospital spokeswoman said that through August of this year, 39 patients were in need of sexual assault exams at LMH, four of which were sent to other hospitals for various reasons.

Meyer said it’s hard to predict patient levels and said it was extremely rare for four sexual assault patients go to the hospital in a 24-hour period, as occurred last weekend.

Two other victims received exams on-site. But because the exams take four to five hours to conduct, two of the patients were sent to Stormont-Vail “in order to provide them the best outcomes,” said Janice Early-Weas, LMH spokeswoman.

Other certified nurses were out-of-town and could not come to the hospital to assist with the exams, Meyer said.

He said there may be situations in the future where rape victims are asked to go elsewhere if there aren’t enough nurses on staff or because of other factors.

Branson and Meyer also reached an understanding that LMH would send all children to Children’s Mercy, where the staff was better equipped and trained to deal with pediatric patients.


Keith 8 years, 7 months ago

In the future, rape victims, like other trauma patients, will be life flighted to the nearest competent hospital.

Amy Heeter 8 years, 7 months ago

What the heck does it matter. Branson's office makes plea deals with sex offenders all the time. Why should LMH double or triple staff to collect evidence that will never be seen in the the court room?

Jonathan Becker 8 years, 7 months ago

Bravos to Branson for publicizing this unconscionable practice on the part of LMH. Rasberries to Meyer for his greed, avarice, and sloth in deciding the bottom line is more important than critical care. Matthew 10:8 does not say, "Heal the sick, when staffing levels permit you so to do." Where the blazes is the LMH board? Sipping Mai Tais? Perhaps the City Commishes should ask its appointees for an update and review of the appointments.

Let's change the name of LMH to LUH for Lawrence Unconcionable Hospital.

middlemgmt 8 years, 7 months ago

I'm glad that the press about this is helping to make some changes.

ferrislives 8 years, 7 months ago

MacHeath: The patients waited "for several hours" in LMH before one of them told them they needed to go somewhere else. That is the biggest issue to me. If you know that you don't have the staff, and a rape kit is needed, then time is of the essence, and they should have been sent their much sooner. So obviously your nonchalance about these incidents makes no sense, and is pretty sad to say the least.

On another note, LMH has a lot of money for everything else, so they should be able to afford training some of their nurses without a problem. Forget the parking lot, and focus on the patients. Remember who pays the bills.

mylefthand 8 years, 7 months ago

What a one-sided article. LMH did have trained staff available. Having 4 vicitims come into the ER in one night is a staggering number. LMH did provide a sexual assault exam for 2 of the 4 women. I would also like to comment on the hospital "turning patients away." That practice is illegal. Patients may be transfered to another facility but never turned away. It is impossible for a hospital the size of LMH to offer every service that a large hospital does. I respect a doctor sending a patient to a different facility if that is what is best for the patient.
Charles Branson and LJ World need to base articles on facts, not attention grabbing headlines. Shame on you!

Janice Seymour 8 years, 7 months ago

Why does no one seem concerned that there were 4 rapes here on Saturday? There is no problem handling one or two at a time - but 4? Scares me!

CheneyHawk 8 years, 7 months ago

As a professional who worked 16 years in KS hospitals (including LMH), there is no excuse for no coverage. Either 5 nurses rotate call or certify more nurses. What an embarrassment for the city of Lawrence. It goes back to "what if this were my daughter, sister, mother?" mode of thinking. If this happened to one of your family members, what would you think? A city the size of Lawrence and you have to transfer to Topeka or KC facilities for this type of care and support? LMH needs to gain some instestiional fortitude and step up. They have a moral/ethical obligation to this community to make it right.

beawolf 8 years, 7 months ago

I wonder if it's possible to get the "conviction" and "plea-bargain" record of the DA's office on these rape cases? I've been searching on-line but no results. I'm sure these are public records.

As to the story itself, LMH needs to address this issue but I'm not overly concerned, especially as there seems to be adequate facilities with 25-30 of Lawrence. Not ideal, but serviceable.

Mel Briscoe 8 years, 7 months ago

lawrence has gotten some really bad press for this... i saw this story on several wichita stations last night.

Kat Christian 8 years, 7 months ago

Kuddos to you Charles Bronson to standing up to this and not letting it get swept under the carpet and ignored so not to mar LMH image. They need to step up to the plate and be a responsibly health care organization for this town, be it a rape, or illness of any kind. This is why I voted for you.

emptymind 8 years, 7 months ago

i have been a helathcare professional for over 20 years, worked in several hospitals much smaller and larger than lmh. never did i run across such a mindset that lmh has. build parking lots, buildings and they will come. but who will treat them? they should apologize to the community of lawrence

ralphralph 8 years, 7 months ago

This makes Branson look like a jerk, IMHO. The numbers given show that through August there had been about 5 cases per month, and LMH got 4 cases all at once on one Sunday -- a whole month's worth -- and they dealt with the two they could, while sending the others to where they could get quicker help. If there is a problem, the situation on Sunday doesn't look like the real sign of it. That's more like having 30 fires break out, then criticizing the fire department for not having enough trucks to fight them all at once. If this had been an ongoing concern, why hasn't Branson tried to get something done instead of waiting for this anomolous situation to launch a public tirade. I'll give him a few points if his concern for the victims is genuine, but take away more points for being too dimwitted to handle it positively and constructively.

Really1 8 years, 7 months ago

It's almost as if there is a nationwide shortage of nurses....

Really1 8 years, 7 months ago

24 hour call 1-2 days a week, doing the work of police by collecting evidence, working nights, weekends, holidays, being slammed by the media, DA, and idiots on discussion boards. Why wouldn't the nurses want to be certified to do this? This is a service not all hosptials provide. Good job LMH.

Jmed 8 years, 7 months ago

ralphralph/Really1- Well said!

LMH NEVER refuses care to ANYONE. These critics need to find out the whole story before saying anything. LMH did the right thing by recognizing that they couldn't handle a months worth of rape cases in one day and making the proper referrals for timely care. God bless the wonderful LMH SANE nurses!!

Danimal 8 years, 7 months ago

Lawrence's hospital is acceptable for a city half its size, but not for a city that (with students) is approaching 130K. LMH has used Topeka and KC hospitals as a crutch for too long.

sinverguenza 8 years, 7 months ago

Who collects other critical DNA evidence in the event of a crime? I'm wondering if I manage to bash in the head of my rapist if the cops are going to collect the blood from my hands, or if LMH will do it and then send me to Topeka for a rape kit.

Anything that hinders an individual's ability to report a rape is despicable. This specific situation aside, you have to acknowledge that LMH is a business. Just ask one of their injury prevention people when they're off the clock and they'll tell you the board of directors isn't really interested in injury prevention because, duh, that means they'd make less money. Yay for capitalism!

CheneyHawk 8 years, 7 months ago

"Lawrence's hospital is acceptable for a city half its size, but not for a city that (with students) is approaching 130K. LMH has used Topeka and KC hospitals as a crutch for too long." Danimial is spot on. A city this big should have a hospital with staffing that could handle this. This shouldn't have overwhelmed this hospital. Pick the up phone and call someone in. LMH acts like this is a sleepy little 40K town.

Ernest Barteldes 8 years, 7 months ago

Four assaults in a single night in a relatively small town? There's gotta be something wrong there.

yankeelady 8 years, 7 months ago

Find the support for a larger hospital--not to mention staff and funding. Oh and don't forget a new location--the current one is pretty close to maxed out.

rebelsc 8 years, 7 months ago

Shame on you Mr. Branson. Instead of condeming LMH, you should be concerned with the fact that there were four rapes in Lawrence in one night.

As for LMH, congrats on continuing with great community care. Nurse qualified to care for rape victims require 40 hours of specialized education and certification. I think it is wonderful that LMH employs five of such nurses. Obviously only one nurse is on call at any given time. I also applaud the physicians at LMH for having the connections and taking the time to make referals when indicated. Our physicans are the best.

As for the Lawrence Journal World owner and editor, I offer another thumbs down. Why don't you get on the band wagon and support your local hospital. Frankly your constant badgering of LMH is getting old. LMH is a community hospital. The current health care crisis in this country is well known. Both health care workers and receivers of health care have an obligation to spend health care dollars wisely. A community hospital cannot provide care in every instance, but LMH does a wonderful job. I would hate to see it close. Thank you LMH for providing necessary health care for this community in the majority of cases, and thank you for transferring patients when it is to their benefit.

To the owner and editor of the LJW, I suggest you move to close proximity of K U Medical Center. As for me, I am happy to stay here, I like the neighborhood.

LA_Ex 8 years, 7 months ago

Is everyone missing the fact that there was a nurse on duty and she handled 2 of the 4 cases? The same paragraph reads that the exams take 4 to 5 hours, so that leads me to believe the other cases came in while the nurse was conducting an exam on another victim. They tried to call in other nurses but they were out of town. So instead of making the victims wait they transferred them to another hospital after they had medically cleared. Makes perfect sense to me. Sounds like LMH was acting in the best interest of the victims.

Thirty-nine cases this year. Two of those transferred during extreme situations this weekend and another two transferred for some other reason, earlier this year. I also wonder if those other two victims may have been minors, therefore had to go to CMH anyway. Numbers seem to show that LMH is providing pretty good service.

All the victims were initially treated locally, all the evidence was collected appropriately, and 9/10ths of all the cases were handled completley by LMH.

This whole situation seems to be much ado about nothing.

I applaude the fact that LMH is working on getting more nurses certified. Thumbs down to the DA for jumping the gun and attempting to discredit the hospital. Hey Chuck, maybe you should be learning how to try a case in court. That might be a more valuable use of your time.

ferrislives 8 years, 7 months ago

LA_Ex says: "I also wonder if those other two victims may have been minors, therefore had to go to CMH anyway. Numbers seem to show that LMH is providing pretty good service."

On the previous article (, the DA stated "He said two college-age rape victims were told to go to out-of-town hospitals to be examined."

Obviously college-age rape victims would NOT be children. Does anyone ever read the entire story?

And if the nurses make an honest judgment that they cannot handle the other rape victims, that's the way it is unfortunately. But they should have sent them to the other hospitals right away, because important evidence collection time had been lost up to that point. Just ask any law enforcement officer who works these sorts of cases.

According to one of the related articles, LMH has two pieces of equipment that can handle these cases, but they just didn't have the trained staff available to use them. The argument of "their doing what they can" is moot as well, as LMH themselves are now doing what they should have done a long time ago. So less parking lots and billboards, and more patient care is absolutely needed in a 110K+ city.

Dan Eyler 8 years, 7 months ago

I have never heard so many stupid and narcissistic people in my life. You want it now you want it perfect you want government to take over it and you actually think it will get better. For the most part LMH is a pretty decent hospital with pretty good physicians and medical staff. You can't have a ER big enough in Lawrence to handle all the patients using the ER for their personal clinic. A person who shows up and says she has been raped gets in line with all the others and takes their turn. The average ER visit in the US is 3-4 hours and a lot more in some cities. Clearly most of you are far less concerned about these victims that the fact that you have to cut a check for the care. If you want the ER at LMH to work better than quit going there for your runny nose and sore throat. Go to Walgreens clinic if you want minor care. Then maybe LMH could focus its staff training on more acute and critical care and less on wiping noses of so many selfish people who stroll into the ER because they are to lazy to manage their healthcare with a little personal responsibility. If you want LMH to improve, than stay out of the ER just because you have a bad cold. But if you want care cheaper, better, faster and free, than you better get in line and shut up.

nursegail 8 years, 7 months ago

Whew...the salt in this wound continues to sting today! After 20 years in nursing, I recommend closure. I have degrees and experience beyond reason yet I am still just a nurse. In the current nursing shortage, I could work anywhere at almost any hospital. I choose to work at a hospital here in Lawrence. I do this because of the quality that is demanded by my fellow nurses, my peers.

In any institution, the true worth and ethic of the overall mission can be dissected down to the parties that come in day after day to keep the ideal alive and well. Our commitment to quality is just that- the nurses and medical providers at LMH care deeply about quality. I have worked in many hospitals and emergency departments and no where, NO WHERE do I find nurses that are on their 15th, 20th, and even 30th year of service at the same hospital. This is unheard of!

Nurses are in short supply and they can work anywhere and they can work anywhere often and receive sign on bonuses to job hop at will. LMH represents a work force of nurses that truly care about patients and their families. I know that our hearts are in the right place, I know that I could make more money in a bigger hospital, but I will never leave this place. This is where talented nurses and physicians gather to practice the art of caring and medicine among respected peers. Quality health care is here in your home town, support it and experience it.

Turnover rates are incredible at other hospitals. However, here in Lawrence nurses wait in line to work at LMH! This discussion has opened up an avenue to increase the pool of sexual assault nurse examiners to meet an increasing volume of victims. It has also drawn important attention to the incidence of sexual assault in our "small" community.

It is really time to move forward with increasing victim support, increasing potential victim awareness, and a purposeful and calculated decrease in the the opportunities for perpetrators to inflict terror on innocent people.

LA_Ex 8 years, 7 months ago


I'll quote myself here: "Two of those transferred during extreme situations this weekend and another two transferred for some other reason, earlier this year. I also wonder if those other two victims may have been minors, therefore had to go to CMH anyway."

2 transferred during this past weekend +2 the other two (possibly minors?)

4 for the year.

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