The specialist social work role was developed in response to the Not Now, Not Ever – Putting an End to Domestic and Family Violence in Queensland Taskforce report.
In the past two years Gold Coast Health has recorded about a 45% increase in the number of patients identified as victims of domestic and family violence after presenting to Emergency Departments at Gold Coast University and Robina hospitals.
Gold Coast Health Chief Executive Ron Calvert said the appointment was part of the health service’s commitment to tackling domestic and family violence.
“We are often a first point of contact for individuals who have experienced domestic and family violence,” Mr Calvert said.
“Gold Coast Health is leading the way by employing a specialised officer and ensuring all health service employees have an understanding, and know how to respond to a disclosure of domestic and family violence.”
In 2014 Gold Coast Health social workers assisted 593 patients, in 2015 the number of domestic and family violence referrals increased to 868, and in the first six months of 2016 there were 426 referrals.
Newly appointed Domestic and Family Violence Coordinator Kym Tighe will work to develop new and innovative programs with the aim of improving the services Gold Coast Health already provides to families experiencing domestic violence.
Ms Tighe, who will commence her role in January 2017, said health workers were well placed to identify potential victims and open up pathways towards assistance.
“In health, we already do such sensitive work and this is another way we are helping the community,” she said.
“I’m looking forward to working to improve the health services and referral pathways for people wishing to escape the cycle of violence that occurs in these relationships.”
The Domestic and Family Violence Coordinator role is one of many initiatives putting Gold Coast Health at the forefront of the response to domestic violence.
Experienced social workers, trained to identify domestic and family violence victims, work across Gold Coast Health’s emergency and maternity departments and with the Homeless Health Outreach Team.
Midwifery and Nursing Education Director, Women and Newborn Services, Dr Kathleen Baird – a joint appointment with Griffith University – has developed and evaluated a new midwifery education and training program which supports midwives to identify, support and refer women and their families onto target community support agencies.
“We’re training midwives to not only ask if a woman is a victim of domestic violence in a caring and sensitive manner, but to look out for particular signs and to respond and refer to an appropriate support agency if they identify an issue,” Dr Baird said.
Both Dr Baird and Ms Tighe were part of the Queensland Health Domestic and Family Violence Expert Advisory Board and provided input into the development of a Queensland Health toolkit and ‘train the trainer’ program which will be rolled out across 26 Queensland Hospital and Health Services from this month.
Gold Coast Health has also partnered with Griffith University and Menzies Health Institute Queensland to carry out impact evaluation of the new domestic and family violence role and service.