New Brunswick’s Horizon Health Network has announced several changes to its sexual assault nurse examiner program, including a new name, that will help ensure consistent access and improved care to sexual assault and intimate partner violence victims.
The health authority’s new series of strategies includes developing a provincial education strategy, increasing staffing and developing a provincial education strategy.
The changes come following an internal review triggered last month after a sexual assault victim who visited an emergency room in Fredericton to get a rape kit performed was turned away.
Forensic nurse examiners (FNE) — formerly known as the sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) program — provide specialized nursing services and trauma-informed care to victims of sexual assault, intimate partner violence and maltreatment to any individual, including men, women, teens, children, seniors and members of the LGBTQ community.
FNEs are also trained to conduct medical forensic exams, including evaluation for evidence collection, while providing effective courtroom testimony and showing compassion and sensitivity towards survivors of sexual and/or intimate partner violence.
The new plan comes with a cost of about $1.16 million, which will cover the cost of hiring additional coordinators and nursing staff to support the program.
“The expansion of Forensic Nurse Examiner services will help ensure that safe, compassionate and quality personalized care for survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, regardless of gender, can be provided and that resources are available in the right place at the right time at each of Horizon’s five FNE sites,” said Margaret Melanson, the interim president and CEO at Horizon Health Network, in a news release Wednesday.
The changes include:
Additional staffing in all five areas served by Horizon, which include Moncton, Saint John, Fredericton, Upper River Valley and Miramichi.
The formation of a provincial governance committee. The network says the committee will include leaders and experts from Horizon, Vitalité and the Department of Health.
Development of a provincial FNE education strategy.
Rebranding of the former SANE program to FNE.
The changes also call for the addition of full-time FNE coverage for 16 hours per day in Moncton, Saint John and Fredericton, as well as eight hours per day in the Upper River Valley and Miramichi.
“We are going to be investing in permanent resources, where this program predominantly depended on casual or on-call resources to be recruited,” said Greg Doiron, Horizon’s vice-president of clinical operations. “On top of their regular normal day jobs, these people will be dedicated to supporting the same program.”
Melanson says the new program will best meet the needs of both patients and staff.
“These measures are representative of our overarching organizational commitment to providing better access to health-care services and improving the patient experience. I would like to thank our FNE teams for their active participation in this process, and for their continued commitment to this crucial program and the patients it serves,” said Melanson.
Horizon says it continues to work with the Vitalité Health Network and the New Brunswick government so these improvements can be finalized and enacted as quickly as possible.