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From the Community | Stanford Hospital: We hear you, we care and we are working to address concerns

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Andra Blomkalns is an emergency medicine professor and chair of the Department of Emergency Medicine at Stanford’s School of Medicine.

We want our community to know that the Santa Clara Valley Medical Center (SCVMC) Sexual Assault Forensic Exam (SAFE) Program’s response location at Stanford Health Care is a safe, compassionate, fully equipped and staffed SAFE response location developed in collaboration with and approved by Santa Clara County. At the same time, we have heard the concerns of advocates and are already in active discussions with the County to jointly address those concerns — including a new, complete and dedicated suite for survivors of sexual assault. We will submit our proposal to the County Board of Supervisors Health and Hospital Committee later this month. 

Stanford Health Care’s emergency medicine physicians and staff are devoted to providing the highest standard of compassionate care — which requires that we always remain open and humble to feedback and dedicated to continuous improvement. We care for survivors of every age, gender and level of acuity, and deeply understand and care about the unique experience of each patient. We recognize the importance of a program and process tailored specifically for survivors.

In my career, I have cared for countless survivors of trauma, including many survivors of sexual assault. I have worked with our program leaders and the Santa Clara County SAFE Program leadership to develop our SAFE response location, which opened in February 2020, with the goal of providing the safest, most compassionate care to survivors of sexual assault, including by providing a physical setting equipped to meet their medical and emotional needs.

At Stanford Health Care, responding to the past 16 months of unprecedented surges and patient needs during the pandemic has reinforced our devotion to our community. We adapted, grew and persevered to meet our community’s diverse needs and will do the same as we are hearing from our community regarding our SAFE response location. Our objective is to hear feedback humbly and openly and to do our very best to respond with meaningful action. General feedback from non-patients may be emailed to [email protected]. Patients should email concerns to [email protected]. Please note that anyone in need of SAFE services should go directly to the emergency department and not send a message through email.

Although our program meets all the stringent requirements and protocols for maintaining evidence as a necessary part of the evidence-collection process, we are determined to make the experience for survivors as strong as it can possibly be. Nothing less will do. At this time, our recent conversations with the SCVMC SAFE Program leaders include the following plans in development, as referenced in the July 30 Off-Agenda Report on SAFE Response Locations submitted to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Health and Hospital Committee by the County’s SAFE Program.

  • Immediately following the June 30, 2021, Health & Hospital Committee meeting, we initiated preliminary work to identify and evaluate alternate locations with dedicated space for SAFE exams and survivor privacy.
  • In mid-July 2021, the SCVMC SAFE Program met on-site at Stanford Health Care to discuss the physical environmental assessments underway to identify alternative space meeting criteria for a SAFE response site. From several options, we identified a location for study and needs assessment.
  • Some immediate modifications were implemented to ensure the survivor’s needs and choice for care are identified at the time of initial triage. This includes connecting the survivor with the SCVMC on-call SAFE nurse during the initial triage screening, and ensuring the availability of a safe, private and confidential space for the patient to wait while the SAFE nurse and confidential advocate are en route.
  • Additional improvements and training are being reviewed to help with long-term changes and stability of practices that are trauma responsive.

Further details about our proposal for a new, dedicated suite cannot be provided here until they have been presented to the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors Health and Hospital Committee later this month. The Health and Hospital Committee meetings occur monthly, and new information will be provided at each meeting. We expect to share our timeline subsequently.

As these improvements take shape in the coming weeks and months, we will do everything to continue to ensure that survivors of sexual assault experience the best possible, safe, supportive environment for SAFE exams at Stanford Health Care.

— Andra Blomkalns

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