A WOMEN'S rights group has called on the department of health to develop a policy that will effectively respond to domestic violence.
Lisa Vetten, a researcher and policy analyst at Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, told a seminar recently that health care workers often did not record cases of domestic violence reported in hospitals.
"Women go to hospitals, get painkillers and maybe some stitches, but nobody asks who hurt them, no record is made and no real intervention into the violence results.
"When a woman comes in with injuries that could be from a partner beating her, health care workers must ask her what is happening at home, keep a record of her response and refer her for further help," said Vetten, adding that about 70 percent of cases reported in hospitals were not specified.
She said there was a need for the health sector to develop a policy that would respond to domestic violence, as it is done in many countries.
Vetten said according research to establish the effective use of service providers addressing domestic violence such as the courts, hospitals and police, the health sector was least able to respond to problems of abuse.
"Research showed that women were most likely to go to the police for help," she said.
She said problems with health sector responses to domestic violence included lack of training, under-staffing and lack of privacy, particularly in overcrowded hospitals.
"Hospital staff need to be trained to respond to injuries involving an intimate partner," she said.
Vetten said recent statistics released by the police, which showed that 182588 violent crimes were committed against women, was just the "tip of the iceberg".
She said there was a need for hospitals, courts and the police to have adequate referral systems in place in order to deal with domestic violence effectively.
"These service providers rarely refer women who come to them for help to other service providers. They act largely in isolation from one another. This is a serious dilemma, especially in relation to hospitals," Vetten said.