Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Jail blood draws begin mid-December

Updated: Friday, 19 Nov 2010, 9:40 PM CST
Published : Friday, 19 Nov 2010, 8:25 PM CST

AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Austin City Council will vote to approve a contract to hire a full time phlebotomist, or blood drawing technician, at their December 16 council meeting.

The move would effectively take local hospital emergency rooms out of the blood draw business.

"We won't be clogging up the emergency rooms," said APD Lieutenant Randy Pogue. "They'll be available to people with emergencies."

With the addition of a full time phlebotomist, Lt. Pogue said DWI enforcement officers would be able to get back on the streets more quickly after making a drunk driving arrest. An average DWI stop can tie up an officer for hours, especially if the officer is escorting a drunk driving suspect through a mandatory blood draw at the hospital.

"This will get officers back out on the streets quicker, but in the meantime, this program is for a lot of reasons- we have to have an answer to the mandatory laws," said Lt. Pogue.

In 2009, emergency room nurses drew blood from nearly 520 suspected drunk drivers. The cost per person to APD is about $325. That adds up to nearly $170 ,000 in 2009 alone.? Contracting with a company to hire trained phlebotomists will cost the city about $70 thousand a year.

"That's at the cost of the taxpayer," said Lt. Pogue. "We're trying to save money here and just make it an easier way for everybody to do this."

Lt. Pogue said the APD DWI enforcement unit could use another shift - 9 more officers. He said in the meantime, they will settle for just getting their officers back on the street faster.

The city has narrowed down the number of bids for phlebotomist contracts to three. Officers hope to have the phlebotomist drawing blood the very next day. The goal is to have them in place before the New Year's Eve 'No Refusal' weekend.


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