For as long as REACH of Macon County has been in operation, the agency has worked with Angel Medical Hospital whenever a client needs services such as a forensic exam, more commonly known as a rape kit.
However, since HCA acquired Mission Health, victims of sexual assault have been unable to obtain those needed services locally, forcing REACH staff to find ways to get victims to Mission Hospital in Asheville – often times while up against the clock in order to collect evidence that may later be needed for prosecution.
Since the merger, the forensic nurse position is no longer staffed full-time at Angel Medical Center, which means rape victims have to be transported to Asheville just to receive the necessary exam.
“If Angel does the transport, the amount of time the victim must wait for an ambulance is unconscionable,” said Jennifer Turner-Lynn, Assistant Director of REACH of Macon County. “The last rape kit I did, I took them to Mission and we were there for 13 hours – this is just one of many examples.”
Turner-Lynn said that in addition to not being able to get the services her clients need, something else that has occurred since the merger are rape victims are being charged for services.
Turner-Lynn said REACH had never had a problem with a rape victim being billed for the use of the emergency room at Angel Medical Center and now victims are being billed for that at Mission. She said a client received a $1,000 bill from the ER and the only service she received was getting a rape kit performed.
“We have always had such a great relationship with Angel and the staff there, but since HCA has taken over, we have run into problem after problem,” she said.
Part of the issue with community partnerships such as REACH, is that with HCA taking over, local agencies have lost their contacts at Angel Medical Center.
Phone calls to Angel Medical Center go unanswered, and there has been little to no luck reaching anyone with HCA to address the problem.
Turner-Lynn said that another problem is the transportation for clients.
“We had a client who had a stroke while in our shelter and was taken to Angel. Because the situation was serious, they were transported to Mission Hospital by ambulance,” she explained. “After they were treated and released, that client did not have a way to get back to Macon County. Prior to HCA, patients were returned back to their county of origin, but not anymore.”
Turner-Lynn said that after multiple calls to Mission, REACH was told that for a fee of $300, the hospital could arrange transportation back to Macon County.
“For people with no financial resources or family to call, that is unconscionable,” she said.
By Brittney Lofthouse