Nova Scotia's health minister says he will expand sexual assault services across the province.
Currently, there's a sexual assault centre in Halifax and a specialized nurse examiner program in Antigonish.
“Two more areas, if we could have one centre in each of the four regions of the province -- that indeed will be a significant improvement,” said Health Minister Leo Glavine.
Glavine said two new centres will be added when the province creates four health regions.
“This is what we will look at is a centre in each one of the districts and obviously Cape Breton is one of the areas that definitely needs this kind of program and it will be one of the two areas that will receive our focus,” he said.
During the fall provincial election, the Liberals promised to cut the current nine health districts down to four. Premier Stephen McNeil, then the Liberal leader, said it makes no sense to have nine districts overseen by chief executives getting paid high salaries to administer health for a province with a population of about 941,000.
Glavine wouldn’t give a time frame but said the new health regions will be rolled out over the next 11 or 12 months.
In Cape Breton, women's advocates have lobbied for years to get dedicated sexual assault services.
Louise Smith-MacDonald, director of Every Woman's Centre in Sydney, said she’s glad to hear Glavine's plans.
In partnership with other agencies, she's been advocating for years for a sexual assault centre, specialized nurse examiners and more follow up services. She said, a sexual assault support centre will make a big difference for victims:
“They will realize there is a lot of support for them and they will start to trust the system so that we will see many more reports of sexual assault and we’ll see many more convictions,” she said.
Glavine said the Department of Community Services will partner with the Department of Health to provide victim services.