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'We will always be here to serve them': Staff added to shore up program for sexual assault victims


Shared Health says it is committed to making changes to a forensic program that examines sexual assault victims in Manitoba, after reports that several victims were turned away when they sought out help.

The sexual assault nursing examiner program, known as SANE, has been experiencing staff shortages, CTV News Winnipeg reported on Wednesday. The Manitoba Nurses Union (MNU) says the service is currently made up of one full-time nurse and 14 casual nurses. The casual nurses work SANE shifts on call during their off-time, and hold other full-time nursing jobs.

"As gaps in coverage and our staffing situation worsened over the course of the pandemic, we identified the need for significant changes to this program," said Monika Warren, chief operating officer of provincial health services and chief nursing officer with Shared Health.

According to Warren, since last April, there were no nurses available to examine 14 sexual assault victims. When a nurse wasn’t available, victims who chose to go home and wait until one was available were asked not to shower.

Warren said asking a patient to not shower if they leave is the normal procedure if no nurse is available, and it’s the patient’s choice to do so.

“Our preference is that they would stay, because typically our period of staffing where we have a gap is a few hours. It’s not days,” she said.

Warren said the department is working to hire a dedicated manager to oversee the program, and says more stability is coming for staffing.

"We have filled five of the seven new permanent positions, with staff beginning these roles over the coming weeks,” she said. “While it will take time for these nurses to gain the specialized expertise and training, we want to assure the patients and all Manitobans that they're continuing to be highly trained nurses working in casual roles still in this area."

While the program will be based at Health Sciences Centre, Warren said training will also occur at sites outside Winnipeg.

She added they want people to continue to access SANE.

“I want to reassure all victims of sexual assault, and intimate partner violence, that we will always be here to serve them,” Warren said. “Our model in terms of how quickly we can serve them, we hope to improve the wait time for them. But please continue to utilize our service. We have compassionate, dedicated staff who want to support you, not only initially, but as you work through the healing process of that very traumatic event.” Top Stories

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