'Hospitals must report abuse'

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 at the Tshwaranang Legal Advocacy Centre, told a seminar in Johannesburg yesterday that healthcare workers often did not record cases of domestic violence reported at hospitals.

"Women go to hospitals, to get painkillers and maybe some stitches but nobody asks who hurt them, no record is made and no real intervention into the violence results," Vetten said.

"When a woman comes in with injuries that could be from a partner beating her, healthcare workers must ask her what is happening at home, keep a record of her response and refer her for further help."

She said about 70percent 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 its done in many countries.

Vetten said according to research conducted to establish the effective use of service providers dealing with 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 a lack of training.