Mediclinic initiative helps in the fight against GBV

Posted on 10 February 2023

Mediclinic Southern Africa collaborates with community organisations to offer the most appropriate clinical care for survivors of Gender-Based Violence (GBV).

Gender-based violence (GBV) has become increasingly prevalent in our society; South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women and girls in the world. Every three hours, a woman is murdered in this country and according to data from 2019/20, oaverage, 116 rapes occur daily. More than 50% of women have experienced GBV, and 76% of men admit to perpetrating violence against women.

In 2019, Mediclinic founder Dr Edwin Hertzog met with representatives from the international NGO Ring for Peace, who sought a partnership with a healthcare company to address the issue jointly. “As a healthcare organisation, we appreciate that GBV is a significant issue in SA,” says Dr Melanie Stander, General Manager: Clinical Services for Mediclinic Southern Africa. “For this reason, we’ve invested in training and upskilling employees to respond comprehensively to patients who have recently experienced GBV.”


There are two components to this initiative: “The first is the implementation of the GBV clinical care model in our Emergency Centres,” says Dr Stander. “The second is our groundswell staff awareness campaign that opens the door for discussions about GBV in our organisation. Our nurses are often the first people community members turn to when seeking healthcare advice, and we want them to be equipped to assist survivors of GBV too.The aim is to reduce the stigma and shame for survivors, working together with the community to create a safer environment for the most vulnerable in our society.


Trained support

Currently, seven Emergency Centres across the Western Cape are staffed by healthcare workers trained to provide appropriate clinical and emotional support to GBV survivors. These include Mediclinic Stellenbosch, Mediclinic Paarl, Mediclinic Worcester, with the recent addition of Mediclinic Louis Leipoldt, Mediclinic Panorama, Mediclinic Cape Gate, and Mediclinic Durbanville. “As weve already created strong collaborative relationships with external stakeholders in the Western Cape, such as the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA), the South African Police Services (SAPS) and the Department of Social Development, it makes sense for Mediclinic to continue the rollout in this province before extending nationally,” Dr Stander explains.


Mediclinic Emergency Centre nurses and doctors undergo training that equip them with the tools and skills to recognise and manage GBV patients. “There is a clearly defined patient flow for GBV patients in our Emergency Centres and we provide a separate, private consultation room,” Dr Stander says. “ER24 trauma counsellors provide the initial emotional support, and our staff are encouraged to approach each case with sensitivity and empathy. The ER24 trauma counsellor also determines whether the patient is returning to an environment where theyre well supported or if they need additional help. Where necessary, the Department of Social Development gets involved.”


Emergency Centre doctors are also educated about the legal requirements of forensic collection. “We aim to give power back to the survivor,” Dr Stander says. “It is a myth that GBV survivors need to report the crime to SAPS before they can seek medical help. We gently remind them of the 72-hour window period for collecting forensic evidence and doctors are trained to complete the necessary paperwork should the case go to trial.”


Multi-organisational involvement

As Dr Stander explains, GBV care is not only about the first contact a survivor has with medical services. “It’s a longer, more holistic journey involving many organisations and external stakeholders, such as the NPA, SAPS, and Thuthuzela Care Centres (TCCs),” she explains.


The TCCs are one-stop facilities that form a critical part of South Africa’s anti-rape strategy. Led by the NPA’s Sexual Offences and Community Affairs Unit (SOCA), staff at these 51 centres aim to reduce secondary victimisation and help build a case ready for successful prosecution.


“When a survivor opens a case, SAPS involvement is key – and their contribution is through the Family Violence, Child Protection and Sexual Assault Unit (FCS),” Dr Stander adds. “Our Emergency Centre staff form good relationships with the local FCS detectives, who are pivotal in providing the policing aspect in each GBV case.”


Gale Shabangu, Chief Transformation Officer for Mediclinic Southern Africa, says:

“Partners such as Ring for Peace are vital in the work we are doing. Theyve provided expertise and guidance in addition to the public sector stakeholders we already work with, ensuring care and support is within easy reach. Its our hope that those who experience GBV-related trauma will feel comfortable approaching one of our Emergency Centres [of the seven currently available in the Western Cape] for help, medical attention and support.


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