Cornwall Community Hospital Assault and Sexual Abuse Program
There is a practice at Cornwall Community Hospital that has the potential to save hundreds of lives and save the institution thousands of dollars. This system does not rely on the latest technology or high tech medical equipment. It simply involves our health care providers routinely asking their patients about domestic violence.
Screening patients for domestic violence can be as simple as asking one question, but in Canada too few health care providers routinely screen their patients for abuse. Experience and research have taught us that properly trained doctors and nurses are uniquely qualified to help victims, who seek medical treatment for both routine and emergency care.
Domestic violence is a health care problem of epidemic proportions in our country, our province and our community. According to “Family violence in Canada: A statistical profile, 2010, “police reported approximately 48,700 victims of spousal violence” in Canada. However, Ontario rated the lowest in Canada for spousal violence. An interesting new phenomenon that is growing is the increase in dating violence. “The rate per 100,000 population of dating violence was over 65% higher than the rate of spousal violence. This was the case for both men and women.” This study also sadly reported an increase in children witnessing domestic violence.
The numbers are disconcerting as are the missed opportunities. Each time a health care provider fails to ask a patient about domestic violence, he or she could be missing a critical chance to help victims of abuse. Domestic violence can sometimes be the missing piece needed to complete a diagnosis.
The World Health Organization (WHO:2013) once again identified as part of Primary Health Care, that screening for abuse in all health care settings is instrumental in identifying and raising awareness of this public health problem. Victims of domestic violence suffer from many physical health problems, psychological problems and in the worst scenario are murdered. Their children who witness this violence are victims as well and may go on to develop complex emotional and behavioural problems in addition to being at risk for physical abuse.
Although health care providers routinely screen men and women for other potentially deadly but preventable conditions and habits like high blood pressure and cigarette smoking, too often they do not ask their patients about abuse, which may be more likely to affect their health and endanger their lives.
Cornwall Community Hospital has implemented routine universal screening giving our health care professionals the tools they need to effectively address abuse. Health care providers can log on to www. Dveducation.ca to increase their confidence in assessing and responding to domestic violence situations.
The good news is that domestic violence is 100% preventable and health care providers can play an essential role in that critical effort. We are committed to doing our part to end abuse and we hope that more health care providers in our community and across Canada will join us in screening patients for domestic violence.
If you have been hurt through sexual assault/ abuse or domestic violence, please contact Cornwall Community Hospital Assault and Sexual Abuse Program: 613-9323300 ext. 4552
For assaults within 72 hours, please come to the Emergency Department and request an ASAP nurse.