Hospitals must play central role in any National Cabinet plan on violence against women

St Vincent’s – Australia’s largest not-for-profit health and aged care services provider – is calling on tomorrow’s National Cabinet meeting to deliver a sustainably-funded plan to tackle violence against women with the role of hospitals as a central component.

“As a health services provider, St Vincent’s knows the crucial role hospitals already play in early intervention, identifying and responding to women experiencing domestic violence (DV) or abuse,” said Adele Sheridan-Magro, head of St Vincent’s Hospital Sydney’s Domestic and Family Violence Service.

“One-in-five women presenting to Emergency Departments (EDs) have experienced DV in the past year.

“But nonetheless, DV remains under-identified in healthcare settings. Around 70 per cent of Australian women experiencing DV go undetected by hospital staff; more than 40 per cent of those killed by partners visited an ED in the preceding two years.

“Health must be central to any plan on tackling violence against women.

“St Vincent’s is calling on the National Cabinet to commit to improving the screening, identification and support of women experiencing DV as they interact with the hospital system.

“That means, making sure that hospital-based, specialised DV services are available for Australian women when they’re receiving care, when and where it’s needed.

“It means taking an ‘every door’ approach. Women experiencing DV engage with a variety of hospital services, not just EDs. We need hospitals to be equipped to provide rapid and ongoing DV support, whichever clinical area a woman interacts with, even for a seemingly unrelated health issue.

“And it means funding to provide more comprehensive training for health workers to improve their competence and confidence when responding to DV.

“Violence against women in Australia is a health epidemic.

“When COVID-19 struck, we answered by coordinating an overwhelming health response that met the moment. National Cabinet was the epicentre of that decision-making. Our hospitals were the frontline of that battle.

“Now, with violence against women, we’re looking again to National Cabinet to support Australia’s hospitals to provide the frontline health response that meets the scale and urgency of the need,” Adele said.

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