Sexual assault medicine in crisis in regional NSW

Fancy driving a round trip of 700km for a forensic medical examination after being raped?

That’s what rape victims in central NSW are facing due to NSW Health’s refusal to pay the standard call-out rate for medical practitioners who are qualified to run “rape kit” tests on victims of sexual assault. The qualified sexual assault medicine practitioner resigned last year (after several months of providing the service for free with no response to complaints about inadequate payments) and thus patients now have to go to Canberra to have the forensic examination performed.

The added trauma that a long drive, undertaken at the victim’s own expense if they have the financial resources to manage it, would cause to a victim already in shock after an assault is horrible to imagine. Since the doctor’s resignation as Griffith Base Hospital’s sexual assault medical examiner Griffith police have had to send three victims to Canberra for “rape kit” examinations.

The fee that NSW Health refuses to pay? $7 per hour.

It’s hard to tell from the quotes in the article but I think the doctor who resigned is making a point about a wider crisis in regional sexual assault health services (as well as just trying to juggle her work/family balance). A general practitioner with a full patient roster, she is the only qualified sexual assault medicine practitioner in the region, and NSW Health was unwilling to pay her a pittance for her special expertise or to fund a full-time sexual assault medicine position rather than having a GP on call 24/7. Whilever she performed the examinations without special recompense, NSW Health could pretend that their provision of regional sexual assault health services was tickety-boo.

An upset Dr Reeves said she feared forcing sexual assault victims to leave town for treatment could stop other victims coming forward.

“We already only see the tip of the iceberg when it comes to sexual assaults,” she said.

“We’re going to see a much smaller iceberg if we don’t even have a service.”

Dr Reeves said the procedure, which can take up to two hours, was vital to collect evidence for any ensuing court case.

She pleaded with the area health service to employ someone fulltime.

“It’s minimally expensive,” she said. “We don’t use any special equipment or machines, just our brains and a little compassion.”

There’s no response as yet from NSW Health. Their side of the story will be interesting.

Categories: culture wars, health, Politics, violence

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1 reply

  1. Not that it makes a substantive difference to the principle, but there’s an error in that article – the seven dollars an hour is the on-call fee, not the call-out fee.
    Kind of injects some more reality into the “Little Children Need Jackboots” plan, though, doesn’t it? If the government won’t resource basic sexual assault services in central NSW, what hope have they in remote NT, WA and Queensland communities?

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