Skip to main content

For the latest COVID-19 impacts across North West HHS, including vaccination information, click here.

North West HHS Upgrades Forensic Medical Examination Kits

North West HHS Upgrades Forensic Medical Examination Kits

2024-05-31 10:48:34

North West HHS Upgrades Forensic Medical Examination Kits

31st May 2024

North West Hospital and Health Service (North West HHS) continues its education on best practices for assisting sexual assault victim-survivors with the introduction of an improved Forensic Medical Examination Kit (FMEK).

With an area as large as the North West, core topics on sexual assault treatment run out of Brisbane can be accessed 24/7, and the North West HHS runs additional modules at least every two months on topics such as; supporting the patient, domestic abuse, and issues relating to vulnerable people.

The new FMEK’s are a significant improvement on the old testing kits including everything needed to ensure that individuals across Queensland receive the same high-quality service, aligning us to the rest of the country.  

The FMEK’s include the following;

  • Contamination Reduction Kit – gloves, clinician gowns, sheets for bed, patient gown, sheets to create DNA free zones, bar codes for paperwork.
  • Forensic Medical Examination Kit (DNA Swabs) – swabs, slides, sterile containers, sterile water, pen, barcodes, envelopes, stickers for sealing evidence.
  • Toxicology Kit – everything required for a blood sample and a urine sample sealed in a tamper proof envelope.
  • Clothing Kit – envelopes, labels, and bar codes.

Within the Mount Isa Hospital, there is always someone on call to assist with a presenting victim-survivor over the age of 14 years, and any patients younger than 14 years old will be able to see a trained paediatrician at Mount Isa Hospital who will work under the direction of Queensland Children’s Hospital.

For remote facilities, a forensically trained medical officer can dial in to provide advice for an assault victim. Likewise, the patient can request to be transferred to Mount Isa Hospital if they prefer.

For nurse only outposts such as Dajarra, initial care can be provided (support, contraception, referrals), and a transfer arranged to Mount Isa for a forensic assessment.

Executive Director of Medical Services, Dr Anthony Bell, speaks of the significant improvement to service, these kits provide for a sexual assault victim.

“Ten years ago, swabs could only be taken up to 3 days after the incident, but now it may be up to 7 days depending on the details of the incident, however that’s not to discourage historical incidents as they can still be investigated without a swab,” Dr Bell says.

“-Unfortunately, sexual assault is still an issue in our communities, and it is our goal to work with community services and victims to reduce the impact of assault.”

Senior Medical Officer, Dr Julia De Boos, notes how a victim-survivor can access the assessment.

“A victim-survivor can disclose to anyone in the health service that an assault has occurred, and they will then be transferred to a person appropriate to that area who will contact the sexual assault assessment service (SAAS),” Dr De Boos says.

“-The SAAS will then discuss the available options with the patients as swabs will not always need to be taken and help will be provided to anyone who asks.”

“-Cross contamination is the reason someone cannot be assessed at home if the kit is to stand up in court, therefore evidence must be taken in an environment that has been cleaned a certain way for example a hospital or medical centre.”

The North West HHS has zero tolerance for assault and will continue to provide staff who elect to receive the training with the necessary support and information to assist victim-survivors.