Austin-Travis EMS now conducting DWI blood draws

DWI Blood Sample
FILE (AP Image)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — As the Austin Police Department works on tackling drunken driving, the Department has decided to terminate its contract with Protouch Nurses, Inc., the medical group that managed their blood draws, due to recurring problems with the company’s response. The DWI Unit reports that phlebotomy services with Protouch have not been up to par. In a city memorandum, officers indicated there were several instances where phlebotomists did not show up to do a blood draw for a DWI arrest.

APD hired the temp agency Protouch in 2010 to do blood draws. Complaints from officers came shortly after.

“There were times when they couldn’t make it in time,” said Det. Mike Jennings, with APD’s DWI Unit. “A lot of the people that they hired had other jobs, so they couldn’t come in when we needed them to.”

So officers found themselves on several occasions taking suspects to hospitals for blood work, costing more money and possibly evidence.

“When we’re dealing with DWI, we’re trying to get as close to the time of driving as we possible can, and that’s stuff that we need when it comes to trial later on,” said Jennings.

Also in the memo, officers reported there were several cases where it took a phlebotomist multiple attempts — sometimes up to eight tries — to draw blood from a suspect. So APD terminated the contract with Protouch and called on EMS. EMS couldn’t administer blood draws for APD in the past because a statewide statute prohibited it. But in 2013, lawmakers changed that.

“I would say it’s working very well right now,” said EMS Division Chief Eric Jakubauskas.

He says medics sign up for shifts outside of their normal work.

“They’re clinicians, and they’re used to working with people under duress and people under stress. And so I think that brings an intangible to what we’re providing for APD,” said Jakubauskas.

“These are guys that are highly, highly trained to do what they’re doing,” said Jennings.

After four years of service, Protouch’s contract with APD ended in November 2014. Since the end of last year, Austin-Travis County EMS staff are now tasked with conducting the blood draws of suspected drunken drivers.

KXAN reached out to Protouch Nurses Tuesday at both its Houston and Dallas offices to ask about the accusations. No one was available for comment.

Meanwhile, EMS medics will draw blood for DWI suspects only at central booking once a suspect is arrested and it is warranted.

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