Corn­wall Com­mu­nity Hos­pi­tal As­sault and Sex­ual Abuse Pro­gram

Seaway News - - OPINION - Sarah Ka­plan Abuse Insight

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.

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