SHERIDAN — A bill circulating through the Wyoming Legislature would add health care providers to the list of people of authority defined in current sexual assault criminal law. Sheridan Memorial Hospital chief nursing officer Charlotte Mather said the bill, which passed through the House and currently resides in the Senate, would likely not change the current practices the hospital has in place.
The Health Care Providers-Sexual Assault Protections bill would also require licensing boards to review existing rules related to standards of care, require use of chaperones for patient protection and publicize or amend existing rules based on the reviews.
“Those rules should not only protect patients, but also protect the health care providers as well,” Rep. Debbie Bovee, D-Casper, said during the introduction of the bill Feb. 15.
Bovee introduced the bill to the House but said she constructed the amendments to the law with two other representatives, a victim of a Wyoming doctor recently convicted of sexual assault and a representative from the medical board.
“This bill is not in response to the #MeToo movement,” Bovee said. “Rather, it’s in response to the recent conviction of a doctor in our state who was found guilty of sexually assaulting his patients.”
Bovee did not expect the revisions to completely eradicate issues with sexual assault by health care providers but said it should provide some protections for both the provider and the patient.
Mather did not have numbers of reported cases but said a solid system of checks and balances exists throughout SMH. New employees learn of the compliance program during the post-hiring process. The compliance program officer, Collee Everett, fields calls from any employee needing to file a report or complaint. Employees may also call anonymously through a hotline. Depending on the situation, Everett completes an investigation with one staff member and any other affiliated party, including the hospital’s attorney, if necessary. Everett reports all compliance issues to both CEO Mike McCafferty and the hospital board on a monthly basis through compliance committee meetings.
A patient advocate, Jody Hecker, also remains available for anyone needing assistance resolving issues.
Mather said sexual assault awareness is part of typical education and training for medical professions.
The proposed bill defines health care provider and explains sexual assault in the second degree and how it applies to health care providers. It also denies those health care providers convicted or pleading guilty or no contest to an offense from erasing their conviction records. The legislation further instructs nursing boards to refuse renewal or issuance of licenses to health care providers convicted of sexual assault.
Mather said with the framework and structure already set up in the SMH system for reporting sexual assault and any other compliance issues, the bill will simply reiterate best practices in the medical field.
The bill passed through the House with 52 votes for, five against and three excused before Senate received it for introduction.
The Legislative Service Office scheduled the bill to receive its third and final reading in the Senate Wednesday before returning to the House for final approval with any new amendments.