Manitoba Government News Release–Manitoba is marking Sexual Assault Awareness Month by investing in a provincial program that will expand forensic nursing services for Manitobans, increasing access for survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence to necessary supports and reducing the need to travel to Winnipeg for specialized care, Health Minister Audrey Gordon and Families Minister Rochelle Squires, minister responsible for the status of women, announced today.
“Our government is committed to providing care to individuals in need closer to home,” said Gordon. “The new Forensic Nurse Examiner program will provide equitable and timely responses for adults who are survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, allowing them to remain closer to their support network during a traumatic moment in their lives.”
The Forensic Nurse Examiner (FNE) program will build upon the existing Sexual Assault Nurse Examiner (SANE) program at Health Sciences Centre (HSC) Winnipeg, where survivors of all genders are able to access medical care, counselling services, community resources and, if they choose, reporting to police. The new FNE program will see HSC Winnipeg become the provincial hub and centre of excellence for the program, with initial satellite sites established in Brandon, The Pas and Thompson, Gordon said.
Manitoba is investing $640,000 annually to support the new program and allow for the hiring of five full-time nurses, including a provincial co-ordinator. The new nurses will be trained as forensic nurse examiners with specialized training and knowledge to provide comprehensive care for survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, which includes assessment, documentation of injuries, testing and treatment for infections and injury, and forensic evidence collection. Existing nurses in Brandon, The Pas and Thompson will have the opportunity to receive the training necessary to become FNEs.
The centre of excellence at HSC Winnipeg will act as a resource to rural and remote communities, providing Telehealth services to nurses working in communities without FNEs, allowing them to provide appropriate support to patients throughout the province.
“Our government knows the need for these types of supports has increased in the past two years,” said Squires. “This investment follows a recommendation by the Manitoba Status of Women Framework: Addressing Gender-Based Violence and ensures survivors throughout the province will be able to more easily access the services they need if and when they need it.”
The FNE program will also offer adolescent patients greater access to these services. Over time, the new program is expected to expand the number of locations where teens aged 15 and older can access care to include not only Winnipeg but also any of the satellite sites.
The number of cases seen by the SANE program has steadily grown over the years, with the program treating 688 survivors in the 2020-21 fiscal year. The expanded program will respond to this increased need by creating capacity for these services in locations throughout the province, noted Jennifer Cumpsty, executive director of acute services, HSC Winnipeg.
“The expansion of the program will create proper, personalized care for survivors of sexual assault and intimate partner violence, regardless of gender,” said Cumpsty. “While HSC will remain a centralized resource for these services, the expansion of this program will ensure that Manitobans living outside Winnipeg are able to access timely support while remaining close, if they choose, to their home and support network.”
The expanded forensic nursing program is expected to be up and running in late 2022 or early 2023, noted Gordon.
The ministers noted the province has also launched another project with the goal of improving women’s health and access to care. Deloitte is conducting a review of women’s health models across the country and around the world to identify improvements that could be made in Manitoba, while reflecting the province’s unique demographics and geography. Its findings and recommendations are expected to be submitted to government later this spring.
The Manitoba government designates April as Sexual Assault Awareness Month in Manitoba to promote awareness, education and discussion about the seriousness of sexual assault and violence. A number of supports are currently available for survivors of sexual assault beyond the SANE program, including those provided by Klinic, Survivor’s Hope and Westman Region Women’s Resource Centre. For more information on available supports, go to www.gov.mb.ca/youarenotalone.
More information on the SANE program is available at https://hsc.mb.ca/emergency/.
If you are in need of support, the Sexual Assault Crisis Line can be reached in Winnipeg at 204-786-8631 and toll-free throughout Manitoba at 1-888-292-7565.