29 Jan Double pain for victims of sex abuse
The Advertiser 22 January 2017
Sexual assault victims in regional South Australia are travelling traumatised and unwashed for hundreds of kilometres to be examined because rural GPs lack specialist training, it is claimed.
The SA Rural Doctors Association wants all regional GPs to be sufficiently skilled to perform forensic examinations on, and preserve evidence collected from, victims of sexual abuse.
Is says while all doctors have basic skills to perform the examinations, only a ‘handful’ have the necessary training require to avoid any potential legal consequences.
Association chairman Gerard Considine said ups killing GPs and proper remuneration for the examination would stop victims having to travel long distances to receive help.
“Victims are often forced to travel unwashed, in soiled clothing for extended periods of time by car, domestic flights or with policy escort, sometimes hundreds of kilometres away,” Mr Considine said.
“Victims are therefore separated from their family and social supports during a major time of need.
“I’ve seen patients in the aftermath and heard their stories, especially when I worked on the Eyre Peninsula, of victims having to travel long distances in what is an already confronting time.
“This very process discourages victims to seek medical and legal support as the travel often results in … further trauma being experienced.”
Currently, forensic examinations are provided at Port Lincoln, Mt Gambier, Berry and Whyalla hospitals. Patients are referred by police, who pay for the assessment.
“Doctors wouldn’t turn a patient away if they came to their clinic,” Mr Considine said.
“But the risk is the doctor might not collect the evidence or take the history properly, which could affect legal cases.”
The association planned to raise the matter and the need for appropriate remuneration during negotiations with the State Government on rural GP contracts in the coming weeks.
Currently, GPs who perform a forensic examination at a clinic receive the same fee from Medicare as they would a general consultation – about $100 for a consult of 40 minutes or more.
“Doctors, often for capital crimes, need to attend court away from their practice, so any amount of remuneration will not cover the time or emotional factors,” Mr Considine said.
“It’s really just an acknowledgment that it’s a specialised consultation.”
Yarrow Place Rape and Sexual Assault Service, which is part of Country Health SA, provides forensic services and annual training at Port Lincoln, Mt Gambier, Berri and Whyalla hospitals.
Yarrow Place manager Katrina Dee said further training for doctors was planned this year.
She said sexual assault counsellors at Mt Gambier, Berri and Whyalla provided outreach services to surrounding areas.
“Yarrow Place maintains an up-to-date register of doctors and nurses who provide forensics in country areas,” she said.