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Senate of Pennsylvania
Session of 2021 - 2022 Regular Session


Posted: April 19, 2021 08:51 AM
From: Senator Elder A. Vogel, Jr.
To: All Senate members
Subject: Expanding Access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners
I am introducing legislation to expand access to Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners (“SANEs”) and ensure quality care for victims. SANEs have specialized training in trauma and forensic nursing and are vital to a complete care system for survivors of sexual assault.
There is an extreme shortage of SANEs across the nation, Pennsylvania included. Rural areas face significant challenges due to this, but many urban hospitals struggle to retain consistent SANE staff as well. While there are hospitals in the Commonwealth that do have full time SANE staff, some can only operate with an on-call system and an alarming number of hospitals do not employ a SANE at all.
At facilities where a SANE is not available, victims may be seen by an untrained examiner or turned away without an exam. In many cases, victims must take it upon themselves to travel from one emergency room to the next until they are able to find a qualified examiner. Some travel hours to other cities, or even states, and may end up facing extensive wait times.  This can lead to secondary trauma, delays or errors in care, and improper collection of evidence.
My legislation will increase accessibility to this care through expansion of the existing Penn State University SAFE-T Program. The program utilizes telehealth to ensure all victims have access to proper care provided by SANEs, allows for continued training, and connects examiners to a peer network— which has dramatically improved retention within the field. SAFE-T is currently engaged with hospitals across eight counties—Bradford, Clarion, Clearfield, Clinton, Dauphin, Huntingdon, and Lycoming—with expressed interest from hospitals in at least nine additional counties.
This legislation will bolster quality of care by:
  • Requiring that patients are admitted to an exam room within 90 minutes of their arrival at the care facility;
  • Creating a structured complaint system based on current standards of care outlined in 28 Pa. Code § 117.52; and
  • Ensuring widespread public access by establishing a webpage with a comprehensive list of hospitals and their SANE capabilities.  
Many victims of sexual assault are hesitant to seek medical care. It’s crucial we ensure that those who do will have access to immediate and thorough medical attention. Utilizing telehealth technology and expanding an existing care model offers cost and time efficiency, thereby ensuring the improvement and sustainability of protections for Pennsylvanians.

Introduced as SB1172