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It's time for some answers

The veil of secrecy that has surrounded Citrus Memorial Hospital for the past three weeks will be lifted today.

It's doubtful the hospital administration is going to bare its corporate soul about the horrendous events before and during the alleged Oct. 3 attack by a male nurse on a teenage girl. But it's a start.

David Langer will speak tonight on behalf of the Citrus Memorial Health Foundation Board of Trustees. It's expected he'll read a statement, carefully crafted by the board's attorneys, about CMH's handling of the crisis.

Then CMH administrator Charles Blasband will hold a brief news conference and, we hope, finally answer some of the multitude of questions swirling around the hospital since Bruce Young was charged with raping five, and possibly dozens more, sedated female patients.

It's a measure of the outrageousness of the accusations against Young that last week's unrelated allegations _ that a CMH X-ray technician made lewd comments to female patients and perhaps groped at least one woman _ almost paled in comparison.

To be sure, these have been trying weeks for everyone connected with the hospital. The administrators have been under siege; former patients are worried sick that they were assaulted while under anesthesia and perhaps contracted a disease; several CMH workers who have contacted this newspaper _ all anonymously _ tell of high stress and a sense of depression among co-workers.

One call was particularly upsetting to me. A woman identifying herself as a CMH worker took me to task for what she felt was unfair criticism of the hospital by me, and one-sided reporting in general of the situation.

For 40 minutes we talked, and I was unable to make her see that my criticism was not based in any bad experience I have had at the hospital (in fact, my family has had very good care at CMH over the years) or that I was blaming all CMH workers for the possible actions of one man.

My concerns, then and now, are with the people in charge. There are numerous indications that someone in authority, and maybe more than one person, knew months ago that there was a problem with Young and failed to act appropriately.

That left the way clear for Young to continue to have free access to vulnerable female patients and, as police allege, to rape several of them.

Strip away all of the other elements of this tragedy: That is incomprehensible. And unforgivable.

But there are many questions to be answered before the public can fully grasp what has transpired at CMH:

How far up the chain of command did the earlier complaints about Young go, and why weren't they investigated further?

What is the hospital's procedure for investigating such complaints and is it being revisited in light of this tragedy?

Why didn't the hospital's screening process pick up on Young's problems at previous jobs, including teaching positions in Pinellas County and New Mexico?

Did the hospital know that Young had failed his test for a nursing license and that he was ordered to undergo a psychiatric exam? Would it have made a difference in his hiring?

What is being done to ensure better screening of current and future employees?

Why weren't police notified immediately by the hospital if a rape was suspected, as it now appears, by nurses on duty? Why were the police called only upon the insistence of the family of the teenager _ three hours after the alleged attack?

Why was Young allowed to stay with the girl after another nurse saw him lying, half-nude, on top of her? Why was he then allowed to wheel the girl from the recovery room to her floor?

Who cleaned up the scene, in the process disposing of the sheets the girl was lying on, sheets that were critical to a rape investigation?

And will Citrus Memorial Hospital survive?

Contrary to the belief of the caller last week, this incident is not a source of glee to this newspaper; we're not playing a game of "gotcha" with the hospital. Why is it so hard to believe that we care just as much as anyone about the future of the hospital that cares for our families?

Do you blame the police for doing their job in investigating the allegations? Then why hate the press for doing its job, too?

We all deserve to know what happened at the hospital. Perhaps this evening, we'll begin to get some answers.