Bill to limit hospital notification time on rape kits sent to governor; penalties removed to Caldier’s disappointment

A bill that would require hospitals to notify a rape victim within two hours of their arrival that they don't have rape kits or a provider trained in sexual assault examinations is heading to the governor following House concurrence of a Senate amendment Wednesday.

The original bill would have provided civil penalties of $2,000 for hospitals that do not comply. The amended bill removes the penalties, but would require individuals to be notified by the hospital that they can file a complaint with the Department of Health if the hospital exceeds the two-hour rape kit notification rule.

Rep. Michelle Caldier, the prime sponsor of House Bill 1016, reluctantly agreed to the Senate amendment to place the policy into state law.

“The Senate amendment basically stripped enforcement of the policy. Right now, anyone can file complaints against hospitals with the state Department of Health. So this changes nothing when it comes to enforcement,” said Caldier, R-Port Orchard. “The Senate would not remove the amendment, so I reluctantly agreed to concur, because the policy itself is still sound and needed.”

Caldier originally introduced the legislation two years ago after a young woman in her district was gang raped and waited in the local hospital for four hours before the hospital informed her they have no sexual assault kits and do not do that kind of evaluation. By the time the woman had arrived at the right hospital and the sexual assault evaluation was performed, nine hours had passed.

Caldier said when the bill went to the Senate this year, Sen. Emily Randall, D-Bremerton, tried to keep the bipartisan measure intact.

“I was proud to partner with Representative Caldier to make a difference for survivors of sexual assault,” said Randall. “We worked hard in the Senate to keep the penalty clause in the bill – – to shift the burden off of the survivors who are already dealing with incredible trauma. Unfortunately, the desire to protect hospitals from civil penalties was stronger than the desire to protect survivors from unnecessary red tape. But we're not giving up – we'll keep standing alongside survivors next year and in every session to come.”

The amended bill still requires notification within two hours of the patient's arrival. The notification requirements take effect July 1, 2020. In addition, it would require hospitals that do not provide rape kits to develop a plan by July 1, 2020 that would assist victims in finding a facility with an appropriate provider available.

Caldier is calling on sexual assault victims who experience waiting times longer than two hours to file complaints with the Department of Health.

“Really, there's no good excuse for any sexual assault victim to wait even 10 minutes to find out whether the hospital has the adequate resources to perform rape kit evaluations. That would have been my preference. However, we made concessions to move the bill forward, placing a two-hour limit in the policy and penalties to ensure that would be carried out,” said Caldier. “Now with the penalties removed, we can only get accountability if patients are willing to go through the complaint process. If enough people do that, it's my hope no sexual assault survivor must endure long waits to get the appropriate help they need.”

If a bill is submitted to the governor within five days before the Legislature adjourns, he has 20 days, not counting Sundays, to take action on the bill. The legislative session is scheduled to adjourn April 28.

Hospital complaints can be filed at: www.doh.wa.gov/AboutUs/Fileacomplaint.

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Washington State House Republican Communications
houserepublicans.wa.gov