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Sexual assault treatment units still open but some changes made

By Mindo - 20th Mar 2020

The Sexual Assault Treatment Units (SATUs) service has to date “not been significantly affected by Covid-19”,  however some changes to the service have been introduced, the Medical Independent (MI) has been told.

“As it stands, to date the service has not been significantly affected by Covid-19,” the Clinical Director of the national SATU service Dr Maeve Eogan told MI yesterday (Thursday 19 March).

“All six SATUs in the network Dublin, Waterford, Cork, Mullingar, Galway, Donegal continue to deliver 24/7 care.”

However Dr Eogan, who is Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Rotunda Hospital, said that some changes had been made to the service.

“We are having regular virtual team meetings across the SATU network  – ensuring our services to remain supported, mitigating risk and troubleshooting challenges as they present. We have had to introduce some changes,” she said.

These changes include “a request for forensic examination is combined with screening all (patients, An Garda Síochána, accompanying people) for Covid-19 symptoms, risk of exposure etc.”

“As with all areas  we are seeking to limit footfall while still providing a service to those who need it, thus we are striving to limit the number of accompanying persons to a consultation

“The rape crisis centres are largely providing psychological support through telephone support helpline.”

Dr Eogan said that the SATU service has also discussed what measures it would put in place if providing a service to someone with Covid-19.

“In the event that we are asked to see a symptomatic person (confirmed or suspected Covid-19) requiring forensic assessment we would need to consider the evidential value of an assessment and look at alternative pathways (eg, patient taking their own swabs using instructions), providing medicines (emergency contraception) for collection through an unaffected intermediary, etc.

“We have received great support from our UK colleagues through FFLM (Faculty of Forensic and Legal Medicine in the UK) who launched a rapid consultation process to prepare outline guidance and  advice.

“We have had to limit follow-up appointments, and any deferred appointments will be undertaken over the phone or rescheduled in time or a combination of both.”

Dr Eogan noted that, as with all areas of the health service, if staff get sick the service will be impacted.

“Clearly staffing issues may present – if significant numbers are clinically unwell, self-isolating due to exposure or indeed redeployed to other areas – we may thus need to reduce to an ‘extended working day’ service, or indeed defer cases to other SATUs,” she added.

“As this is an ever-changing vista things may be very different over the coming days or weeks – I would encourage any clinician or patient who needs advice on the service to take a look at or contact their nearest SATU for bespoke advice.”

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