Some Rotunda sexual assault unit patients still face transfer to Mullingar despite improvements to staffing levels

A recruitment drive is ongoing, and patients have had to be transferred 'less frequently'

Some Rotunda sexual assault unit patients still face transfer to Mullingar despite improvements to staffing levels

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Staffing shortages which have seen patients attempting to attend a Dublin-based Sexual Assault Treatment Unit (SATU) transferred to Mullingar have improved in recent months, according to the Rotunda Hospital.

A number of people seeking help at the SATU in the Rotunda last year had to travel outside the county due to the shortages in the Dublin unit.

As reported in the Irish Independent this week, the alleged victims were required to make the 140km round trip as a result of the hospital's difficulties providing an out-of-hours service.

The situation was noted in the 2015 annual report for the SATU.

The report, which is available here, explains: "In 2015 we continued to experience challenges in staffing our assisting nurse/midwife rota. This meant that there were occasions when we were unable to provide an out-of-hours service, which is not ideal.

"In these instances, cover for our patients was provided by the SATU at the Midlands Regional Hospital, Mullingar and we thank them for their support. A recruitment drive has been initiated, and hopefully this imbalance will be reversed," it adds.

In a statement to Newstalk, Dr Maeve Eogan, Consultant Obstetrician and Gynaecologist at the Rotunda Hospital, said the recruitment drive is ongoing, and they have had to divert cases to Mullingar less frequently.

"When a patient attends a SATU following an incident of sexual crime which they have reported to An Garda Síochána, they meet a forensic examiner (an appropriately trained doctor or nurse), a support nurse/midwife and a psychological support worker," Dr Eogan explained. "The role of the support nurse is to coordinate the SATU attendance and provide support and reassurance for patients throughout their time in SATU.

"In recent years the Rotunda SATU have faced challenges staffing this support nurse rota, which has meant that there were times when we were unable to provide a 24/7 service at the Rotunda SATU."

She added that "recruitment and retention of nurses and midwives is an issue which affects many frontline services nationally, and the Rotunda SATU has unfortunately not been immune from this".

The report shows that there were 685 attendances at the six SATUs here in 2015, an increase of 57 cases compared to 2014.

92.1% of patients were women, while the remaining 7.9% were men.

Earlier this year, Barbara Feeney - reporter with the Pat Kenny Show on Newstalk - spoke to the head of the Rotunda Hospital SATU for a report on coping in the aftermath of rape or sexual assault.

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