SANE program expands to Fishermen’s Memorial

by Gayle Wilson

Just months after opening its Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program at the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater, the Tri County Women's Centre has launched the program at Fishermen's Memorial Hospital in Lunenburg.

On January 2, SANE-trained, registered nurses at the Lunenburg hospital became available to provide 24/7 medical and forensic response to sexual assaults. The service is provided to all survivors and victims of sexual assault incidents within the previous 120 hours who are aged 13 years or older.

The program was launched on the South Shore at the Bridgewater hospital on October 1. Fishermen's Memorial was "the most logical next step for us," according to Shana Vidito, the SANE Coordinator at Tri County Women's Centre.

"It was mostly one of the easiest places to open next. They have a very well developed emergency department and they had a well developed SANE program prior to the province taking over the program," Vidito told LighthouseNOW.

"We know that sexual assault is happening in rural areas, and so it's just trying to make it as accessible as possible to people in different rural communities," she added.

The program will be easily accessible now to people in Bridgewater, Lunenburg, Mahone Bay, Chester and Liverpool. "So that if [sexual assault] does happen, somebody has a quick and safe place to go," said Vidito.

The Western Nova Scotia SANE Program is a contract service for the Nova Scotia Health Authority, funded by the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness.

Focusing on the physical and emotional needs during a vulnerable time, the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiners will also make referrals to help meet the victim's psychological, social, and legal needs. They have access to other community partners who are able to assist through the Sexual Assault Services Lunenburg Queens (SASLQ) network.

The network includes a variety of organizations, such as the Second Story Women's Centre, Sexual Health Centre Lunenburg County, Harbour House Transition House, Bridgewater Police Service, RCMP Victim Services, Schools Plus, NSCC, South Shore Family Resource Centre and Family Services of Western Nova Scotia.

"We continue to work towards a collaborative effort among community partners who can play a role in the provision of responsive and trauma-informed services," interim SASLQ Coordinator, Stacey Godsoe, said in a press release.

Trish McCourt, Executive Director of the Tri County Women's Centre, will oversee the continual building of the program. "This launch is the result of both community partnerships and support from the Nova Scotia Health Authority. We will continue to work with the community to ensure survivors and victims have access to the supports they need," she said in the release.

Vidito noted expansion talks are already underway, with plans to open at Queen's Hospital in Liverpool next on the radar. The program is currently operational in Yarmouth and there are plans eventually to expand it to Shelburne and Digby, said Vidito.

Anyone wanting more information about the SANE program can visit http://www.tricountywomenscentre.org/sexual-assault-nurse-examinerprogram.html

Someone wishing to access the SANE nurses in Lunenburg can call 1-833-577-SANE (7263) or go to the Fishermen's Memorial Hospital Emergency Department.

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