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Truro-area sexual assault survivor takes health minister to task

Pamphlets were the only care given to a woman at the Truro hospital recently when she went to the hospital reporting as a rape victim.
Pamphlets were the only care given to a woman at the Truro hospital recently when she went to the hospital reporting as a rape victim. - SaltWire File Photo

A sexual assault survivor says she now feels like Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey was merely paying lip service when he promised to expand the Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program to Truro.

“It makes me very angry to think, what the hell was that letter he sent me? I feel like he has no intentions of putting a SANE program into this hospital, certainly not anytime soon,” said the woman, whose identity is protected by a publication ban.

She was one of two women who shared their stories with the Truro News last fall about being improperly received at the Truro hospital, after presenting there to report that they had been sexually assaulted.

After their stories were published, Delorey announced in October that the SANE program would be expanded to Truro. The woman also received a letter from the minister reaffirming that commitment.

Six months later, however, Delorey says he does not know when that expansion will occur or even whether it will be done this year.

“I don’t have a specific date but I do again guarantee that the work started and it’s continuing and the commitment is maintained and will be up and running as soon as we can do so, with the appropriate staff model in place,” Delorey told the Truro News in a telephone interview.

He said the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) took the women’s stories to heart and were “redoubling their efforts” to ensure staff are aware of the processes in place for victims of sex assault or violence who show up in emergency departments.

“They’ve taken steps to delve in and go back out to staff, make sure they have the appropriate training and the information and the materials available so they better understand the sensitive nature of dealing with victims of sexualized violence in their emergency departments to make sure that type of situation doesn’t occur.”

That would be a positive step if such training has occurred, the woman said, but it is not what the minister promised, either in his public commitment or his letter to her.

“We need more than that and I don’t feel like they are doing anything for it and I feel like he fed me a line of crap,” she said.

“So, now I’m angry about. Did he send me that letter so that I would release it to you and the rest of the media so he would look good and the premier would look good and think I would go away and say nothing?

“I felt like we won but not now.”

That perspective is shared by Kendra MacKinnon, CEO of the Colchester Sexual Assault Centre, who said she has not heard of any such changes taking place at the hospital. And she also questions the minister’s sincerity about expanding the SANE program to Truro at all, given the lack of a dedicated timeline.

“That’s what we’re hearing, they don’t have a date … so that’s why the public needs to start rattling chains again, because it’s quieted down,” MacKinnon said.

“Actually, it’s an embarrassment for the health authority. They should be embarrassed.”

Delorey said that while the full SANE program has not been put in place, “a lot of work has been done with the NSHA and the department to get the procurement process and paperwork filed to get that up and running.”

Work had been done through the fall to look at temporary options but that fell through, Delorey said.

“That didn’t materialize, although efforts were made to get it stood up,” he said, adding “the commitment still exists and the work is ongoing.”

Without even a tentative date in place, however, the sexual assault survivor said she no longer considers Delorey’s previous assurances to be a firm commitment.

“Even if they financially couldn’t have done that or whatever, he said we were getting one.”

And, if a lack of finances are contributing to the delay, the woman said she would preferred to have the minister state that outright in his letter “… rather than say we are going to do this and then do nothing.

“You’re asking me to be patient but not even putting a timeline on it,” she said. “With no date there is no conclusion to this at all.”

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