Rape Victims In Santa Cruz County Face Long Trips For Examinations

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY (KPIX 5) — Staffing problems at the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Department is forcing local rape victims have to travel an hour away to San Jose for treatment.

Counselors say the inconvenience due to staffing issues will only add to a victim’s trauma.

For the past month, sexual assault victims in Santa Cruz County have not gotten their forensic examinations at the main hospital in town.

Instead, they have had to travel more than 30 miles away at Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

When asked how the staffing shortage got to this point, Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Sgt. Chris Clark replied, “It’s really just the ebb and flow of employment.”

Clark points the finger at staffing turnover. Collecting evidence from survivors is a special assignment that the nurses do on top of their normal duties.

The nurses used to meet the survivors at Watsonville Community Hospital and Dominican Hospital in Santa Cruz, where they were on-call 24/7 and required to respond at a moments notice.

Apparently the demands of the job took their toll. Over the past year, the number of nurses dropped down to just a handful.

“We don’t have the luxury of being able to wait to recruit back to a certain number of nurses,” said Clark. “We need this service now.”

As a result, victims must now make the trek to valley medical center for the examinations, while Santa Cruz County takes the next year to restructure their program.

The Monarch Center in Santa Cruz helps provide support and counseling to the victims. They say what was a 4-to-5 hour ordeal will now take 6-to-8 hours with the longer drive to San Jose.

Monarch officials said it’s not ideal, but a short-term fix.

When asked how he would respond to critics who say the whole situation was mismanaged, Clark replied, “We have an expert forensics unit here at the sheriff’s office. They do a fantastic job. Nurses that were part of our program, they go different things in life. And so what was a good fit now, is not necessarily is a good fit later on. And that happens to everybody.”

The new plan set to go into effect in 2018 will be to have the nurses go from San Jose to Santa Cruz County instead of having the sex-assault survivors come to San Jose.

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