The Interior Health Authority (IHA) said it is training more medical health professionals to conduct sexual assault examinations at Penticton Regional Hospital (PRH).
The issue recently came to light in an aggravated sexual assault case where the victim was unable to get what is commonly referred to as a “rape kit” in Penticton and was referred to Kelowna, reported Infotel News.
Interior Health will not comment on specific cases but said that being referred to Kelowna for a sexual assault examination and evidence collection is rare.
“Over the last two and a half years, there has been only one situation when an individual had to go to Kelowna after coming to PRH due to limited availability of a trained nurse,” Interior Health said in a statement.
“We know how difficult this is but it is critical these examinations are done by trained individuals to avoid compromising evidence that may be critical to a criminal investigation.”
The health authority said nurses at Penticton hospital with specialized training provide support to survivors of sexual assault.
“These are highly dedicated nurses who know how traumatic these situations are and they are committed to ensuring victims receive the services they need locally,” Interior Health said.
Two additional nurses and four more social workers are currently being trained to support services in Penticton.
“Kelowna is the closest centre to support sexual assault forensic exams. Prior to anyone being referred to KGH, every survivor is seen by a social worker and supported to safely make the trip to Kelowna, including an ambulance transfer where appropriate,” the health authority said.
Both doctors and nurses can complete the forensic exams, it said, and receive the same specialized training.
“In all cases, our priority is to ensure patients in these vulnerable situations receive the health care and emotional supports they require and ensure any evidence collected meets requirements for possible future legal proceedings.”