With a view to handling cases of sexual violence and harassment at government hospitals effectively and ensure such victims do not face any problem availing medical services, the Punjab government has announced to constitute rapid crisis response cells across the state.
Acting on the guidelines of the Centre, the state government has framed a policy for victims of sexual violence and harassment and ordered the civil surgeons and medical superintendents to set up these cells immediately.
These cells will be opened at sub-divisional hospitals and community health centres.
Members of the cell will be the medical superintendent or senior medical officer (SMO) in-charge of a district hospital, a nursing superintendent or senior-most staff nurse, a senior gynaecologist and a counsellor.
The cell will be responsible for conducting the victim’s medical examination and treatment by a gynaecologist on duty soon after she arrives at the hospital.
The four-member cell will also ensure immediate medico-legal help to the victims on a priority basis so that they do not face any difficulty availing the services at the hospital.
The mobile number of the members of these cells will be displayed prominently at the hospitals. The printed material in the form of posters, charts depicting information of the medico-legal care of the survivors of sexual violence and domestic violence will also be displayed.
A senior official of the health department said most of the victims used to leave treatment and investigation process midway due to harassment during various stages of treatment.
He said to save the victims from embarrassment these cells will take care of them so that they can get proper treatment and all possible help. These cells will function separately from upcoming the one-stop crisis centre for rape victims which will also be set up at government hospitals for helping rape survivors.
The one-stop crisis centres, which the government has failed to start at hospitals, will also provide medical, legal and police assistance to the victims of rape and domestic violence.
These centres will comprise a doctor, a lawyer, a police official and a counsellor—all of them women. They will help the victims’ families coming out of the trauma and also assist them financially. The assistance will continue even after a rape victim is referred to a private hospital.
Dr Jatinder Kaur, director, health services family welfare, said, “The rapid crisis response cells will not only ensure an effective treatment for the victims at hospitals but also provide medico-legal aid to them.”
“The proposal for setting up one-stop crisis centre is in the pipeline and it will also be started soon,” Kaur said.