Sexual assault victims now have access to specialized nurses on the South Shore as the province moves to expand the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner program provincewide.
Currently 22 trained nurses are shared between South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater, Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville and Yarmouth Regional Hospital.
The province has also contracted the Victorian Order of Nurses to expand what's known as the SANE program to Colchester and Cumberland counties, East Hants and the Eastern Shore.
Health Minister Randy Delorey couldn’t say how many nurses would be on that team and when that program might be up and running but SANE teams typically include 15 to 20 trained nurses. Delorey said with the expanded program sexual assault victims in remote areas of the province could be transported to a hospital with SANE nurses.
"SANE nurses support survivors of sexual assault during an incredibly difficult time," said Delorey. "The impact of sexual assault can be devastating, and we are committed to ensuring Nova Scotians have in-person, 24/7 access to this important service."
The province’s lack of sexual assault services came under heavy scrutiny back in September 2018 after a sexual assault victim was turned away from the Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro. The province has been under pressure since to provide the SANE program provincewide.
Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners are registered nurses who have advanced training and expertise to provide specialized medical and forensic response. On-call nurses provide emergency care that includes supportive care, medical attention, information and additional resources, as well as the option to have forensic evidence collected.
The South Shore program was intended to be launched last fall but was delayed due to a lack of nurses. The government is spending about $1.36 million this year on SANE.
Shana Vidito, a sexual assault nurse examiner and program co-ordinator for the South Shore Regional, Annapolis Regional and Yarmouth Regional hospitals, said the end goal is to ensure that all victims get the care they need.
"We hope that with the word getting out that more victims will come and receive the medical and social help that we can provide for them," said Vidito.