Shared Health to put backup plan in place for sexual assault program while replacement nurses train

Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg. Global News / File

Winnipeg’s Health Sciences Centre has a backup plan to maintain coverage in its Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program.

The program has been under fire recently, as seven of 13 nurses resigned from the program earlier this week. Among other duties, SANE nurses collect evidence after sexual and domestic assaults.

Jennifer Cumpsty, Shared Health’s executive director for acute care, said at a news conference Wednesday that a group of physicians and nurse practictioners have come forward to — for the time being — cover the program’s gaps so the hospital can continue to provide care for survivors.

“We’re putting in place today the process if there is not a trained nurse on duty, what the steps will be to activate the backup plan to come in and see those patients,” Cumpsty said.

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“There’s a team working on how we will notify someone who’s the backup.

“So if there’s a SANE nurse on duty, they would be notified as soon as that patient was medically cleared and ready for the exam, and the process that the team is working on right now is how we will notify the physicians that are going to be the backup.”

Click to play video: 'More nurses quit Manitoba service for sexual assault victims amid ongoing staffing issues'
More nurses quit Manitoba service for sexual assault victims amid ongoing staffing issues

Last spring, Manitoba Health Minister Audrey Gordon announced $640,000 in provincial funding to hire five full-time forensic nurse examiners for the program, including a provincial co-ordinator.

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Shared Health says six new permanent positions have been filled, but due to the intensive training needed, they won’t start working until June.

Earlier this year, Global News learned from Shared Health that 14 victims had been turned away from HSC within a nine-month period.

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They were told not to shower and to come back later when a nurse was available to examine them.

The Manitoba Nurses Union has been vocal in its concerns over staffing woes and the impact the lack of support can have on both workers and their patients. The province’s Opposition NDP has called for Gordon’s resignation over the crisis.

On Thursday, the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs expressed what it said is “deep concern” over the resignations, calling on government to return the program to its full capacity as soon as possible.

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AMC pointed out the focus on victims of interpersonal violence in the final report of the National Inquiry Into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, and that First Nations individuals continue to be disproportionately targeted for this type of violence.

“It is incredibly disheartening to know that an essential program that is supposed to be a safe, supportive, and an affirming option for those victims who has experienced unimaginable trauma, has now become a source of frustration, disappointment and re-victimization,” Grand Chief Cathy Merrick said in a statement.

“It is clear that the province must intervene immediately to re-examine the ailing health care system, starting with re-assessing the sexual assault nurse examiner program so that those who need it, can confidently be treated with care and compassion and know their assessments will be done efficiently and without inflicting further trauma.”

Click to play video: 'Manitoba Nurses Union demands support for sexual assault examiner units'
Manitoba Nurses Union demands support for sexual assault examiner units

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