Impact of nurse’s loss broadened

By Maura Wery

The county’s top finance officer told commissioners Thursday that the absence of a nurse qualified to handle sexual assault cases here costs the county more than $100 per incident, even if charges are not filed.

Budget and finance officer Johnette Shepek’s presentation was a follow-up to a presentation by county attorney Barry Wilkinson last week in which it was noted that sexual assault victims had to go to as far as Wichita and Kansas City to get exams and have evidence collected because Manhattan no longer as a qualified nurse to do the exams at Mercy Regional Health Center.

Shepek said victims had been receiving an exam costing $611 at Mercy. Since the nurse left the position in the summer of 2011, most victims’ kits will cost around $120 more not including transportation costs.

Shepek told commissioners the problem for the county is more than just financial; it can also interfere with finding out where the assault took place. Counties are required by statute to pay for any sexual assault victim’s exam and evidence collection kit if the assault occurred in their county, even if victims decide not to file charges with the police department against their attackers. Shepek said that this fact, added in with out-of-county care, makes it hard for her to verify whether the event occurred inside or outside of Riley County.

Not having a sexual assault nurse at Mercy also affects neighboring counties. Both Pottawatomie and Geary County used Mercy for their sexual assault cases, but since the nurse’s departure Pottawatomie County has been forced to use Stormont-Vail HealthCare and Geary went to Salina Regional Health Center for their exams.

EMS services director Larry Couchman said the position has been vacant since the nurse left her position, and Shepek noted that it “takes a special kind of person to do this sort of work.”

The commission requested Couchman to come to return at a later date for further discussion.

University Park Sewer Problems

Roots and debris are getting in the way of the University Park’s sewer lines. Public Works director Leon Hobson told commissioners that if the problem isn’t fixed soon, there is a possibility the roots could cause a lot of damage.

Hobson presented a video of the sewer lines to commissioners today to show how the clay pipes have sustained damage from roots, root balls and cracks since the sewer was constructed around the 1960’s. Hobson said the damage isn’t consistent through all of the pipes, but for those that are damaged, if not fixed or at least cleared within one to three years they could fail.

“Basically we’ve been lucky so far,” Commissioner Bob Boyd said. Hobson said the good news about the project is that not a large number of homes use the lines that have received significant damage, but that doesn’t mean the problem can be let sit for too long. Hobson said he would like to have a work session with commissioners about how to move forward with the project.

“It’s not something that needs to be done tomorrow, but it needs to be down within the next year,” Hobson said.


Senate Bill 81

Commissioners reviewed changes to a Senate bill designed to narrow the broad scope of county employees allowed to request to keep their home information private.

The bill originally allowed county employees meeting certain privacy criteria to request their home address information be deleted from the public. An example of those who met the criteria were police officers, parole officers and others in potentially dangerous job situations.

County Counselor Clancy Holeman told commissioners that the new subsections would bring the bill back to what it originally was, a bill to keep employee information off of the web. Holeman did note that many county counselors and the Kansas Association of Counties would like to see the bill repealed but “the new bill is better than the one we have now.”

The commissioners agreed that the new subsections would make the bill better for counties than it once was, but they would still like to see it repealed if possible.

“You and your government agencies have a strong case to repeal,” Commissioner Boyd said. “We want to make laws that aren’t worthless.”

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