2009-07-03 / Front Page

Rape Victim Hospital Shuttle For SAFE

EMS Erred In Taking Woman To PHC
By Howard Schwach

Family members of a young rape victim were angered early on the morning of June 21 when the still-unidentified woman was rushed by ambulance to the Peninsula Hospital Center for a rape test only to be rushed out of the hospital 45 minutes later when it was found that the rape examinations were no longer done at PHC due to a new state program called "SAFE."

"It was a traumatic situation for her," a family member told The Wave at the time. "After staying in the emergency room for 45 minutes, they told us they couldn't do the test and they put her back on the ambulance to Queens General."

While family members initially blamed the hospital for not being able to do the test, The Wave has learned that, under the SAFE program, only designated hospitals can now perform rape tests.

"The new program mandates special training for nurses and new equipment for the tests," said Robin Blackwell, the hospital's vice president for nursing. "The ambulance never should have brought her to PHC for the testing in the first place."

Beth Goldberg, a spokesperson for the New York State Department of Health, said that the new program, "Sexual Assault Forensic Examiner (SAFE) Centers of Excellence," designates larger hospitals throughout the state as 24-hour sexual forensic examiner sites.

"The program insures that the quality of collection, documentation, preservation and custody of physical evidence is done right by using a certified sexual assault forensic examiner to perform the exam," Goldberg said.

She added that the forensic nurses are more able to give testimony in court about their findings, insuring more convictions arising from the testing process.

A number of hospitals in Brooklyn and Queens are designated as SAFE sites, including Queens General Hospital, Coney Island Hospital, Queens Hospital Center in Jamaica, and Woodhull Hospital Center in Brooklyn.

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