Saying he was "deeply disturbed" by reports that more than a dozen privately owned hospitals in Los Angeles County have stopped examining rape victims, state Senate President Pro Tem David A. Roberti said Monday that he will call for hearings to determine why the health care facilities have been allowed to drop the service.
"Nothing can explain away the trauma to a rape victim who is assaulted a second time by this health-care insensitivity," the Los Angeles Democrat said. "The current treatment of rape victims in Los Angeles is intolerable."
Roberti said he will ask the Senate Judiciary Committee today to convene in Los Angeles within the next 60 days to assess what some health care officials believe is an emergency situation.
A Times survey last week of more than 40 local hospitals showed that about one-third of privately owned facilities in the county have stopped seeing sexual abuse victims since July 1 when the state instituted a new series of stringent, time-consuming procedures covering the exams.
The lack of facilities is so acute in some areas that police have reported delays of as long as eight hours before a rape victim is examined and treated.
Some hospitals that have begun turning away the rape victims say the procedures are too time-consuming and complicated. The new requirements call for more extensive record-keeping by emergency room doctors and nurses and more precise methods of gathering evidence.
But officials from other hospitals say the new regulations are not the real problem. The exams, they say, are simply too costly.
Under California law, local law enforcement jurisdictions are required to pay for the examinations, but few pay enough to cover the cost. The exams can run as high as $450. But Inglewood, for example, pays $50 and Los Angeles pays less than $20.
Along with calling for hearings, Roberti said he will also ask local mayors and city council presidents throughout Los Angeles County to reconsider the effect of the reimbursement rates, which he said may be artificially low.
A review also will be done of the drafting of the new regulation, which gives hospitals that believe they are unable to meet the new requirements the option of dropping the exams.
Under the new rules, which were instituted by California's Office of Criminal Justice Planning, Los Angeles County is required to have only eight hospitals that will perform the exams.