A South Carolina Senate committee will consider a bill Tuesday that supporters say could help reduce repeat child abuse cases.State Sen. Katrina Shealy, R-Lexington, said current state law blocks health providers from getting medical records without parental permission. Shealy said she respects privacy rights, but believes that some potential cases of child abuse could be spotted more quickly if professionals had access to more information
“The child abuse medical provider needs immediate access to the child’s previous medical records to determine if there has been a pattern of injuries,” she said. Shealy was one of three senators who sat on a panel that was tasked with investigating problems at the Department of Social Services and potential solutions to reduce child abuse or neglect deaths.
The bill up before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday would require physicians and hospitals to turn over a child’s medical records upon request by the South Carolina Children’s Advocacy Medical Response System, whether the parents consent or not. SCCAMRS is a partnership of clinicians who specialize in identifying abuse or neglect cases. While it relies on staffers at facilities around the state, the program itself is based out of the University of South Carolina’s School of Medicine.
State Sen. Tom Young, R-Aiken, said doctors at SCCAMRS are tasked with determining is abuse is present in roughly 200 different cases each year. He said it’s difficult for doctor or nurse practitioners to conclude a history of abuse or neglect if they cannot access information on prior hospital visits.
“They can’t get them because the parent either will not allow them to do that because the parent is a suspected perpetrator, or because the parent is just not available,” he told the Judiciary Committee during its March 17 meeting.
Some senators said they wanted to clarify that privacy rights would not be violated before signing on to the idea. Those concerns are expected to be taken up at Tuesday’s meeting.