Health

Wednesday, Apr 23 2014 06:15 PM

New service assists sexual assault investigations

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    By Casey Christie / The Californian

    San Joaquin Community Hospital.

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BY COURTENAY EDELHART Californian staff writer cedelhart@bakersfield.com

A coalition of law enforcement officials and health care providers has established a new Sexual Assault Response Team to conduct rape examinations in a more efficient manner.

Starting this month, examinations of possible victims of child molestation and sexual assault take place in a private room set aside for that sole purpose at San Joaquin Community Hospital. A staff of eight specially trained nurses from Forensic Nurse Specialists of Central California will be on call at all times to conduct the exams as soon as the patient is released from the emergency room.

Dedicated exam rooms have been available over the years at other hospitals, but were thinly staffed, causing victims to wait as long as eight hours after an assault for the collection of forensic evidence, said District Attorney Lisa Green.

"Can you imagine?" she said in a telephone interview. "I can't even imagine what that would be like."

The private nursing group doing the exams will now get to the patient in less than an hour, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, said Margie Jessen, owner and director of Forensic Nurse Specialists of Central California.

"We see patients of all ages, from children to the elderly," Jessen said.

Between the room's April 1 opening and April 15, it saw 14 patients -- nine adults and five children, Green said.

The team accepts referrals from all local hospitals and law enforcement agencies.

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