Edgefield police complain MCG Hospital let suspect go

Friday, July 31, 2009 12:20 PM
Last updated 1:09 PM
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Another South Carolina law enforcement agency is complaining that Medical College of Georgia Hospital allowed a patient facing criminal charges to leave without notifying police.

Edgefield Police Chief Ronald Carter said the hospital let Joseph Williams, leave earlier this week despite knowing he faced pending felony arrest warrants involving two counts of sexual assault on a minor.

In June the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office complained when a murder suspect recovering from gunshot wounds slipped out of the hospital without police being told.

Chief Carter said today that Mr. Williams, of Bausket Street, Edgefield, was about to be served Tuesday with the pending warrants when he was involved in a wreck near his home. Chief Carter said witnesses said Mr. Williams appeared to have driven his pickup head-on toward an oncoming tractor trailer. Mr. Williams was taken to MCG for treatment of chest pains, complications with a lung and a broken leg.

“The affidavits had been turned over to the magistrate waiting to be signed when the wreck happened,” the chief said. “When he was transported, we notified MCG security, which they told us at the time that the hospital policy was they felt like it was a violation of the HIPAA (federal patient privacy) law to notify us when he was released.”

The chief said Mr. Williams was accused of sexual assault involving two girls, now 14 and 15, over several years.

The chief added that an MCG security official told his department “... they would try to notify us when he was being released. This was coming from their police department. But he (the MCG security official) told me up front that most of the time the nursing staff will not notify them when somebody is being released. They won’t even notify their own people. It’s almost like it’s intentional.

“Eventually, their policy is going to get somebody hurt or killed.”

MCG Hospital officials have not returned phone messages left Thursday and today seeking their side of the story.

Chief Carter said the warrants for Mr. Williams’ arrest were signed by a judge within hours after the Tuesday wreck, but by Wednesday he said Mr. Williams had been released by the hospital, and Edgefield police weren’t notified.

Later that night, Aiken County authorities then got a call at a home on Retro Drive that led them to Mr. Williams.

“Mr. Williams is the one who had actually called us. Evidently he had left the hospital a little too early,” said Aiken County sheriff’s Capt. Troy Elwell, adding that Mr. Williams was seeking medical treatment.

Capt. Elwell said his department quickly learned Mr. Williams was a wanted man and he was taken to the county’s detention center on Wire Road, receiving medical care there instead of being taken back to MCG.

Capt. Elwell said it’s perplexing to see that another similar case has occurred.

“There’s a clause in the HIPAA law that says law enforcement can be notified when charges are pending or charges are brought against, so I don’t understand what the issue at hand is,” he said. “But there’s definitely a problem.”

In last month’s case, Alan Sheffield, the director of safety and security for the hospital, said in a statement that in general the hospital can’t restrict the movement of a patient who hasn’t been formally arrested. Mr. Sheffield said at the time that he would encourage police in such matters to “make the appropriate arrest so that an officer may be positioned within the patient’s surroundings to ensure that their movements are appropriately confined and they do not depart the hospital prior to being medically discharged by a physician.”

Chief Carter said his office doesn’t have jurisdiction to provide guards at the Georgia hospital and would have had to call in Richmond County officers once the warrant was signed.

“And we can’t hardly request that Richmond County send a deputy over there and just wait pending our charges,” he said. “That’s unreasonable to ask of them, I think.”

He said he also doesn’t understand why the hospital can’t simply notify law enforcement when patients with pending charges are released.

“HIPAA protects somebody’s rights as far as releasing their medical information,” the chief said. “And we were not requesting any medical information. The only thing we were requesting was please notify us when he is being released so we can arrange to have somebody over there to lock him up.”

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rufus
2
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rufus 07/31/09 - 12:50 pm
0
0
Take them to a SC hospital

Take them to a SC hospital and guard them yourself

mad_max
0
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mad_max 07/31/09 - 12:56 pm
0
0
Why are you dragging your

Why are you dragging your scumbags over here without being placed under arrest FIRST???? Would it be so that RC taxpayers pick up all of his medical bills as an indigent patient??? I don't think we should pay his medical bills FOR YOU and DO YOUR JOB OF KEEPING UP WITH HIM TOO. Take him to one of YOUR hospitals if you don't like what happens over here. OR, place him under arrest so that there is no question that you get notified.....and please pay his bill when you pick him up. Seems to me this is one of those "want to have your cake and eat it too" situations. Our hospitals should not accept patients being checked in by a "foreign" law enforcement agency unless they are officially under arrest. Aiken Regional has an emergency room in case you were not aware.

AGR354
7
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AGR354 07/31/09 - 01:03 pm
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He could not be placed under

He could not be placed under arrest until he was georgia because Edgefield had no way of knowing who he was, he didn't give the police his real name. Richmond County should of arrested him. But then Richmond would if been responcible for the health bill. MCG should watch these people better. As for keeping SC people in SC Hospitals. No thanks Edgefield is a over staff doctors office, and Aiken it looks nice from the road but it to speaks for it self.

mad_max
0
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mad_max 07/31/09 - 01:14 pm
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That don't make sense AGR354.

That don't make sense AGR354. It says he was "about to be served with the pending warrants" by Edgefield when he had the wreck. It also said that they "notified" MCG security when he was transported so they MUST have know he was pending warrants. They just did not want to be responsible for his bill.

Sandpiper
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Sandpiper 07/31/09 - 01:34 pm
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It looks like yet another

It looks like yet another game of hot potato between different factions. As I read the article, the Edgefield police had the arrest warrents signed on Tuesday the same day in which he was transported to the MCG. MCG tells Edgefield authorities that it is not their policy to notify anyone when a person was about to be released. Forewarned with this knowledge and armed with the necesarry signed arrest warrents on Tuesday Edgefield does NOT notify Richmond County to set a guard at his door. On Wednesday out the MCG's doors goes yet another dangerous criminal. SC & Richmond county enforcement agencies and the MCG need to work out a better arrangement to handle this recurring problem. I realize that SC has no local trauma center and for this reason MCG gets all seriously injured people from around the region. I hope that they put their heads together and come up with a practical solution soon.

chey
2
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chey 07/31/09 - 01:49 pm
0
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From the way I understand the

From the way I understand the article, it seems like Edgefield was simply asking for a phone call when the patient was released. Given the nature of his crimes, one would have hoped MCG would have given them that courtesy.

Why ME
0
Points
Why ME 07/31/09 - 01:56 pm
0
0
The release of a patient is

The release of a patient is "medical information" If a patient requests a no info status then he or she does not exist. If you want them bad enough you will arrest them and foot the bill. This boils down to nothing more than which taxpayers get stuck with the bill. Unfortunately it looks as though South Carolina has stuck us twice.

happythoughts
25
Points
happythoughts 07/31/09 - 03:00 pm
0
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why is it always a matter of

why is it always a matter of someone having to pay someone else's bill. Bill that criminal or sell his stuff to get the money or put him to work hard labor to pay for his own bills.

AGR354
7
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AGR354 07/31/09 - 04:01 pm
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Mad Max the man was rushed

Mad Max the man was rushed to MCG from the wreck. He gave the police a different name. By the time Edgefield figured out what was going on. he was 30 minutes away at MCG.

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