Sexual assault survivors in Marshfield will need to travel 45 minutes for forensic examination

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A well being care firm in Marshfield is consolidating a program that gives forensic exams for sexual assault victims, leaving survivors with an extended drive to get the assistance wanted to pursue prosecution.

Marshfield Clinic Well being System says it is “consolidating” the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner, or SANE, program in Marshfield, successfully closing this system on the Marshfield Medical Heart and consolidating companies on the system’s medical middle in Weston about 45 minutes to the northeast. SANE applications allow forensic nurse examiners to gather proof that can be utilized in court docket, and deal with survivors’ well being wants.

Wisconsin Public Radio obtained a Nov. 17 letter to SANE nurses in Marshfield that mentioned their positions as forensic nurse examiners can be eradicated that day for “enterprise causes.” However an inside firm publication final week mentioned the consolidation can be efficient Dec. 12.

The consolidation comes as Marshfield Clinic Well being System has reportedly seen tens of millions in monetary losses, and is in merger talks with Minnesota-based Essentia Well being.

In a press release, an organization spokesperson mentioned the consolidation is ongoing, and is predicated on the coaching workers want and the variety of sufferers seen by the SANE program in Marshfield.

“We imagine it was extra sustainable to consolidate it in Weston, which receives a higher variety of circumstances, and sees sufferers from throughout the state, together with from Northern Wisconsin,” the assertion learn. “The variety of sufferers we see in Marshfield has decreased for fairly a while, the place in Weston, being centrally positioned to serve sufferers from throughout Wisconsin, there exists extra assets, extra staffing and sustained coaching alternatives.”

‘I really feel like these sufferers simply aren’t going to get care’

Whereas the well being care supplier says the consolidation will trigger “no disruption for sufferers,” two former Marshfield forensic nurses disagree. The previous SANE nurses say the transfer will forestall victims from receiving care.

They mentioned Marshfield Medical Heart-Marshfield’s SANE program noticed sufferers from about an hour away, who would now have almost a two-hour drive to obtain a forensic examination in Weston.

“It takes lots out of them to return in and get evaluated,” mentioned Carmen Vazquez, a former SANE specialist at Marshfield Medical Heart-Marshfield. “For them to be informed they must drive one other 45 minutes to be evaluated, I can see individuals being like, ‘No, I am unable to do it. It took me all the things to return in right here within the first place.'”

A Marshfield Medical Heart worker with direct data of the state of affairs, who spoke on the situation of anonymity for concern of retaliation, mentioned she felt that the consolidation was “taking a step again 100 years.”

“It is already exhausting sufficient for these sufferers to return in, discuss and relive what occurred to them,” she mentioned. “For us to disclaim them that care and say, ‘You’ll be able to drive one other 50 minutes,’ in my view, I really feel like these sufferers simply aren’t going to get care. They already went by means of a traumatic expertise, and now we’re telling them, ‘No, we will not enable you.'”

The corporate spokesperson mentioned Marshfield Medical Heart-Marshfield will nonetheless have the ability to present quick medical consideration, however won’t be able to offer a forensic examination.

Which means, usually, a survivor must journey to Weston for the SANE service, the spokesperson mentioned, including that the well being care supplier is “exploring methods to minimize the burden on sufferers.”

“Those that come to our Marshfield Emergency Division will completely obtain medical care vital, and our SANE nurses on name in Weston can be found to offer session to sufferers in Marshfield, and if wanted, assist prepare switch to Weston,” the spokesperson mentioned.

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Gillian Drummond, communications director for the Wisconsin Division of Justice, mentioned through e mail that any well being skilled can administer a sexual assault equipment, however they need to add the equipment into the Wisconsin Equipment Monitoring System, which requires a log-in.

“Moreover, whereas proof doesn’t must be collected by a educated SANE to be admissible in court docket, one may think about a situation the place the jury provides much less weight to proof from a non-SANE collected equipment,” Drummond mentioned. “That mentioned, proof assortment is basically one minor piece of what a forensic examination entails — and lots of sufferers decide to not have proof collected. Skilled SANEs provide a complete skillset to handle all of the distinctive wants of a affected person with a criticism of sexual assault or home violence.”

In the meantime, Ian Henderson, coverage and techniques director for the Wisconsin Coalition Towards Sexual Assault, mentioned entry to forensic exams is a wrestle throughout Wisconsin. He mentioned the consolidation of SANE applications within the Marshfield space may create extra obstacles for victims.

“That is only one further step, and so it is a spot the place survivors may select to decide out,” he mentioned. “It’s completely a barrier.”

Though forensic nurse examiner applications are sometimes positioned in hospitals, Henderson mentioned they don’t must be.

He mentioned communities throughout the state are getting artistic by creating community-based forensic nurse examiner applications and others are taking a look at creating cell forensic nurse applications.

“There’s a wide range of issues that may be executed, and it doesn’t must essentially all be targeted on hospitals,” Henderson mentioned. “Perhaps we have to take a look at different fashions, (however) there must be assist and coaching for these issues.”

Former nurses say consolidation could also be because of finances cuts

Whereas Marshfield Clinic says the consolidation was primarily based on coaching alternatives, the previous SANE nurses mentioned they had been informed it was because of “finances cuts.”

In reality, WSAW-TV obtained an inside firm memo that mentioned Marshfield Clinic Well being System misplaced $25 million in August and had misplaced $114 million in 2022.

“If we preserve going on the present tempo, we shall be pressured to make a lot more durable selections,” the memo mentioned, in accordance with the TV station.

Nevertheless, the Marshfield Clinic spokesperson mentioned the consolidation “was not pushed by the monetary headwinds difficult all the well being care business.”

“We’re nonetheless providing the SANE service in our well being system and are dedicated to offering devoted and coordinated take care of sufferers in this system,” the spokesperson mentioned. “We do acknowledge that journey to Weston could also be required, however we’re devoted to working carefully with every affected person to make sure they’ve the assets obtainable to them.”

Despite the fact that she desires “to offer the advantage of the doubt to a well being care facility,” Vazquez mentioned she’s nonetheless anxious in regards to the influence the transfer can have on sexual assault survivors.

“I need individuals to have the ability to are available and get the specialised care that they want,” she mentioned. “If there’s not one thing obtainable, they usually must go some other place, I am anxious that they are not going to get that care, they’ll decline to go some other place and they’ll fall by means of the cracks.”

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