Laurens County Memorial’s commitment to the community
There has been much reported in the news recently about how a sexual assault case was handled at Greenville Health System’s (GHS) Laurens County Memorial Hospital. We understand and respect the concerns expressed across the community, and we want to assure everyone that we are committed to providing the best care possible to all of our patients.
No patient will ever be denied treatment at our hospital. Laurens County Memorial Hospital serves as the safety-net hospital for Laurens County. This means we provide care to all patients regardless of their ability to pay.
In the case of a sexual assault patient, it is general practice at all GHS facilities to have a Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) perform the sexual assault evidentiary exam because these nurses have special training in medical forensics and often provide expert testimony if a case goes to trial. If a SANE-trained nurse is not present, we offer patients the opportunity to be immediately transported to a facility where a SANE-trained nurses is available.
If a patient doesn’t want to be transported, an emergency room doctor can perform the exam with the assistance of a nurse. However, in all cases, a patient must consent for the exam to occur. If a patient does not consent or says they want to leave, we must respect their wishes.
Over the past year, GHS has been working on a plan to expand its SANE-program. GHS currently has 15 SANE-trained nurses who provide care across the entire health system and another 10 nurses undergoing training.
The plan calls for an on-call system to be developed so that these 25 SANE-trained nurses can be dispatched to any GHS facility at any hour of the day. The plan also calls for the hiring of a SANE coordinator.
This coordinator will not only oversee policies and procedures across the health system but work closely with local agencies and law enforcement to ensure the needs of sexual assault victims are being met.
Sexual assault is a very real issue for our community. According to the South Carolina Victim Assistance Network, sexual assaults increased 12 percent between 2014 and 2015. And, according to the Julie Valentine Center, the state’s rape rate has exceeded the national rate since 1982.
Our goal at Laurens County Memorial Hospital is to provide the right care at the right time and the right place and to be a source of help and healing for all of our patients. We take sexual assault cases very seriously and understand how difficult it can be for a victim to seek treatment.
We welcome the opportunity to work with the community and local law enforcement to ensure sexual assault victims get the care they need where and when they need it.
(Justin Benfield is the chief operating officer; Kay Swisher, RN, is the chief nursing officer; and David Williams, MD, is the chief clinical officer of Laurens County Memorial Hospital.)