The number of people seeking sexual assault nurse examiner services at Horizon hospitals is on track to exceed the past two years, while the number of nurses trained to perform them is dropping.
A total of 143 people have accessed sexual assault nurse examiner (SANE) services between April 1 and the end of September, according to data provided by Horizon.
If that trend continues, the number could reach about 286 by the end of 2022-23.
By comparison, 225 SANE patients were recorded in 2021-22 and 240 in 2020-21, the data shows.
There were 327 victims of sexual violence or domestic violence who requested the services in 2019-20, which include forensic exams, commonly referred to as rape kits, medical exams, medications to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases, compassionate support and resources for followup.
Four sexual assault nurse examiners have resigned since Sept. 12, when CBC News reported that a 26-year-old Fredericton woman who had been sexually assaulted was told to go home because no one trained to perform the exam was available until the next day.
The nurses — two from Fredericton and two from the Upper River Valley area — felt "disrespected" by comments by the premier and Horizon CEO, according to Janet Matheson, a member of the Fredericton unit. "You've got to support your staff," she said.
Horizon now has 22 nurse examiners. That's down from about 40 last year, interim president and CEO Margaret Melanson has said.
Number of times SANE services were accessed in each of Horizon’s five health zones
There are eight nurses in the Moncton area, six in Saint John, three in Fredericton, three in Miramichi, and two in the Upper River Valley.
They provide the 24/7 service, either on staff or on call, on top of their regular nursing shifts.
A Horizon review of the program, triggered by the Fredericton woman's case, is expected to be completed "in the coming weeks," Greg Doiron, vice-president of clinical operations, has said.
Horizon is "working on a plan to enhance the SANE service and develop a more robust and sustainable program that will best leverage the skills of our expert nurses to meet the needs of survivors," he said in a statement.
The Vitalité Health Network also provides sexual assault nurse examiner services. It has 14 nurses covering eight hospitals, down from 40 trained nurses in 2015.