EXCLUSIVE: After paramedic assaulted, delay in suspect's blood draw to check for AIDS blamed on federal law
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - When a patient aboard a city ambulance allegedly attacked two medics outside Queen's Medical Center a week and a half ago, one of them had to begin an anti-AIDS cocktail.
But the hospital refused to immediately draw blood from the suspect to see if he was infected with AIDS.
This is the second time in six months that city medics in the ambulance based at Queen's reported being attacked by a patient they were treating. Sources said both suspects were men who are mentally ill and/or drug users.
Police said the two city medics were assaulted just after their ambulance arrived outside the Queen's emergency department the morning of Sunday, October 25.
Kainalu Ching, 32, was charged with second-degree assault after sources said he started punching the EMT who was with him in the back of the ambulance and grabbed the EMT's testicles.
The paramedic who was driving went back to help and reported Ching attacked him and bit him in the finger.
Because Ching was a suspected IV drug user whose blood spilled onto the open wounds of the paramedic who was bitten, sources said the paramedic wanted Queen's emergency department staff to take a blood sample from the suspect to see if he had HIV or AIDS.
But the nurse in charge in the ER refused to do that for medical privacy reasons, sources said.
"Queen's is in that tough bind and there are serious consequences if they get it wrong," said attorney Victor Bakke, who has dealt with medical records in court as both a prosecutor and defense attorney.
Bakke said federal and state medical privacy laws known as HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) prohibit the ER crew from drawing blood from the suspect against his will in most cases.
"A violation of HIPAA can result in both civil and criminal penalties. So you can receive a fine of up to about $1.5 million and up to ten years in prison," Bakke said.
Cindy Kamikawa, vice president of nursing and chief nursing officer at The Queen's Health Systems, said, "The Queen's Medical Center treats any request for an involuntary blood draw in accordance with the Ryan White Act and its affiliated federal guidelines. These laws ensure that any exposed individual is under the care of a physician who can determine correct prophylaxis and medical follow-up."
Sources said Ching was later taken into custody at police headquarters, where federal medical privacy rules do not apply to criminal suspects, so we was sent back to Queens within a few hours to have his blood drawn.
Sources say the paramedic began taking an anti-AIDS drug cocktail that made him very sick for two days until a lab found that the suspect did NOT have HIV or AIDS.
Mark Rigg, director of Honolulu Emergency Services Department, said, "As a reminder, this and any other type of physical attack upon paramedics, EMTs and/or other emergency services personnel will absolutely not be tolerated, and perpetrators of such acts will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
"The recent incident at a local hospital is presently under internal review. Insomuch as it concerns a personnel matter and involves privacy issues, the Honolulu Emergency Services Department is unable to provide any further comment on the issue at this time," Rigg added.
In a separate case in April, police said Christopher Thurmond, 40, became angry at two city paramedics also based at Queen's and punched them in the head and face as they were trying to treat him.
Thurmond is scheduled to go on trial for assault later this month under a new law that charges people who attack first responders with a felony, regardless of how serious the injuries they caused were, according to a spokesman for the city prosecutor's office.
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