Ottawa Hospital encourages survivors of sexual assault, partner violence to seek ER treatment during pandemic

Published April 20, 2020 12:06 p.m. ET

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OTTAWA -- The Ottawa Hospital Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Program would normally see two to three people seeking treatment for sexual assault or partner violence each day at the Civic Campus emergency department.

But since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Kari Sampsel tells CTV Morning Live “we’re now seeing one patient every five days. It’s been a significant decrease for us.”

The Medical Director of the Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Program has a message for people needing medical care during the pandemic.

“The emergency department is a safe place if you’re experiencing violence. We can help you, we will keep you safe and we can treat what you need,” said Dr. Sampsel on Monday morning.

Hospitals across Ottawa have seen visits to the emergency department drop by approximately 50 per cent since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Officials said last week that part of the decrease was people are afraid of contracting COVID-19 while visiting the emergency room.

When asked by CTV Morning Live host Annette Goerner if the decrease in the number of people seeking emergency care was due to a drop in partner violence or sexual assault incidents during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Sampsel said “unfortunately no.”

“I think another factor is that people are now sheltering in place with the person who is potentially abusing them, and their operative is to try to isolate that person from society so that they can do what they’re doing as far as abuse is concerned,” Dr. Sampsel said Monday morning, noting people may be unable to reach out for help.

“They may not have the same ability and means to reach out that they would have if they were going off to work, or going to school or doing other normal daily activities.”

Dr. Sampsel says while the Ottawa Hospital is not seeing an increase in patients, they know that there are victims out there and they should feel safe in seeking treatment.

“I want them to know we are open. We are at the Ottawa Civic Emergency Department 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Please come see us,” said Dr. Sampsel.

“We are operating as we normally would be. We can do all of the medical, forensic, social supports that you want and need.”

The Ottawa Hospital is also hosting virtual visits for people who don’t need hands on care.  You can visit the Ottawa Hospital Sexual Assault and Partner Abuse Program online for details.

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