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Some Local Rape Survivors Forced to Receive Help Outside Niagara

Niagara Health says it's working to recruit nurses for the Sexual Assault Domestic Violence unit at its St. Catharines site.

The Niagara Sexual Assault Centre is pushing Niagara Health to provide more assistance to rape survivors. 

The organization is speaking out after a rape survivor in Fredericton was turned away from the ER. 

The NSAC says the same issue is happening right here in Niagara. 

It claims that the Niagara Health Sexual Assault Domestic Violence unit at the St. Catharines site only has staff available about 50 percent of the time, and the issue pre-dates the pandemic. 

This means that numerous survivors have been asked to seek help in Burlington or Hamilton, or return to Niagara Health the next day and not shower or change in the meantime. 

"The consequences of these delays are numerous," the NSAC says. "Not only can it further impact the mental health of the survivor, but it also can lead to them not receiving antiretroviral and other crucial medication that must be administered in a specific time frame. Also, evidence degrades by each passing hour: oral swabs must be taken before 24 hours has elapsed; skin, fingernail, pubic hair etc. samples before 72 hours and only if the survivor does not shower."

The NSAC says it has met with Niagara Health President and CEO Lynn Guerriero to discuss the issue.

In response, Niagara Health says it recognizes there is an issue, and it's working to recruit nurses for the program. 

"The Sexual Assault Domestic Violence program is an important service for the Niagara community, and we are fully committed to providing the best possible care to our patients. Our staff who work in this program are highly trained and extremely dedicated to supporting patients. Unfortunately, we have had longstanding staffing pressures that have been exacerbated by the pandemic, and we are very sorry for the difficulties these pressures are causing. Due to these pressures, there are times when patients would need to travel outside of Niagara to access certain aspects of this specialized care before returning to Niagara Health for follow-up. We are actively working to recruit nurses to this program." - Barb Evans, Director, Patient Care Niagara Health. 


 

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