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Change at Abuse Unit in Hospital

Riverside County supervisors say they'll get the operation working again.

June 15, 2005|Susana Enriquez | Times Staff Writer

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday agreed to overhaul a public hospital unit responsible for examining sexual abuse victims, which a recent grand jury report criticized for being so poorly run that at least two criminal cases were dismissed.

The Riverside County Regional Medical Center, the county's only public hospital, is required to provide personnel trained to examine victims of sexual assault, including child molestation. The hospital has failed to do so since the physician in charge of that program resigned in 2003, the county grand jury reported, recommending a series of improvements.

"Every recommendation is being followed and implemented," said Supervisor Jeff Stone. "We are moving in a direction we can all be proud of."

The board also discussed the need for creating a training program for forensic pediatricians -- doctors who examine children believed to have been physically or sexually abused -- so the hospital doesn't go without a qualified physician again.

"It's easy to fund a program, but it's tougher to get trained people to do the work," said Supervisor Bob Buster.

Douglas Bagley, chief executive officer of the 369-bed hospital in Moreno Valley, said he wasn't surprised by the grand jury's findings.

"They were our findings; they were taken from our reports," he said. "These are really from our investigations."

The grand jury's recommendations included these: requiring the hospital to hire qualified physicians and staff and creating a sexual abuse unit open at all hours; restoring the hospital's program for abused and neglected children 13 and younger and a sexual assault response team program for those 14 and older; and $1.7 million from the county to ensure full restoration of the programs.

State law requires counties with more than 1 million people to staff at least one hospital with personnel trained to identify and treat victims of abuse, and collect evidence for later prosecution.

Bagley said he is working with the Chadwick Center for Children and Families in San Diego to train a physician for the program. With the center's guidance, Bagley said, the goal is to have protocols in place and reach a point where the Riverside County hospital staff can operate independently.

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