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A Web log for the Innocence Institute of Point Park University

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Comal to start long-delayed rape response program

This article appeared in the San Antonio Express-News on October 26, 2006:

Comal to start long-delayed rape response program

Roger CroteauExpress-News Staff Writer

NEW BRAUNFELS — After years of delays, the final contracts and protocols have been signed to begin a Sexual Assault Response Team program at McKenna Memorial Hospital.
The breakthrough came Thursday after county officials and members of the nonprofit board pushing for the program expressed frustration at the slow pace of progress and prepared to run the program out of the Comal County Health Department instead of the hospital.

Until now, rape victims in Comal County have been sent to San Antonio to have the sexual assault examination done. The delay sometimes led to the loss of crucial evidence, officials said.
Sexual assault victims are not supposed to disrobe, urinate, bathe or smoke before the exam, which gathers evidence to help prosecute the case. And often victims simply did not have transportation or want to drive 45 miles, which left some rape cases without enough evidence to go to trial.

Nearby Seguin and San Marcos have had the programs for years, and supporters of starting the program in Comal County said the absence of a local program was an inexcusable hardship on rape victims.

Members of the team said the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners were trained months ago, the equipment needed for the program was purchased, the room at the hospital made available and everything was ready to go. But they blamed McKenna Hospital officials for neglecting to work with them on the protocols and memorandum of understanding needed to get the program up and running.

Hospital officials committed to getting the program started in November 2004, predicting it would be a reality by spring 2005. But roadblocks, including insurance concerns and finding a room at the hospital that could be dedicated to the program, caused some of the delay, board members said.

McKenna did not send a representative to several meetings in a row of the board trying to set up the program, leading to more months of delays, they said.

"They quit going to our board meetings months ago," said board member Pat Keyes. "So we would be on hold and on hold and waiting and waiting. It's just been dragging their feet and there is no excuse for that."

County Commissioner Jan Kennady complained that hospital officials "haven't done a thing," and Commissioner Greg Parker said hospital officials "say all the right things at meetings, but then nothing happens."

County commissioners considered a motion to move forward without the hospital Thursday, but then voted 3-2 to give one more week to iron out a deal with the hospital.

Within an hour, Patty Toney, McKenna Hospital vice president of nursing, met with county officials and board members and came out with the contracts signed and the program ready to start.

"I'm very excited," Toney said. "It's a great moment. There was just a lot of work to be done on both sides. We're glad it's done and signed and we have a program."

Toney said there are a few "housekeeping duties" that should be ironed out by next Friday and then they will do a mock run-through to see if there are any other issues to work out before offering the exams at McKenna Hospital.

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