Survivors of sexual assault and domestic violence in the Oceanside area can now receive a sexual assault forensic examination in Parksville.
Aimee Falkenberg, co-ordinator of the forensic nurse examiner program for central and north Vancouver Island, said forensic nurse examiners based in Nanaimo have completed training to provide sexual assault forensic examinations at the Oceanside Health Centre.
The forensic nurse examiners will be available at the Oceanside Health Centre between 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m., seven days a week.
Previously, survivors in the Oceanside area could be seen in urgent care for medical needs but would have to see a forensic nurse examiner in Nanaimo.
Falkenberg said because she lives in the Oceanside area, she has heard that some survivors have difficulty getting down to Nanaimo.
“Many of our patients are youth and don’t drive themselves or are unable to get a ride to the hospital,” Falkenberg said.
“Some patients didn’t want to report to police or they didn’t want their parents to know or just unable to afford being able to get down to the hospital so this way to travel to them.”
Falkenberg said she approached Island Health in the spring and they worked on the expansion over the summer.
According to Falkenberg, there are 27 forensic nurse examiners based in Nanaimo. That team will cover the shifts in Parksville.
Forensic nurse examiners can see survivors up to seven days after sexual assault. There are three options for survivors who see one of the forensic nurse examiners. The first option is medical care only where a sexual assault forensic examination is not done and no police report is file.
The second option is to have both medical care and a sexual assault forensic examination. This includes the documentation of physical injuries and the collection of forensic samples. The samples are stored for one year, which means survivors can choose if they want to speak to police in the future. The third option is to have medical care and the examination, with the police being informed right away.
Pediatric patients under the age of 13 can be assessed at the Oceanside Health Centre. However, if they require service from a forensic nurse examiner, they will be referred to the Nanaimo Regional General Hospital where a pediatrician and a forensic nurse examiner can see the patient together.