Sex assault victims forced to endure 140km trip due to nurse shortage
A failure to recruit nurses forced some women and men who sought help from the Sexual Assault Treatment Centre in Dublin to make a gruelling journey for care to the unit in Mullingar, Co Westmeath, instead.
A number of alleged victims had no option but to endure the added trauma of a 140km round trip to the centre in the evenings and at night due to the lack of nurses.
The failure to attract enough nurses to the service was outlined in the 2015 report of the Dublin centre located in the Rotunda Hospital.
The report warned the need to travel so far is not ideal for patients or the gardaí.
The centre treated 317 alleged victims of sexual assault last year - up from 286 in 2014.
In keeping with previous years, more than half said they had consumed alcohol in the 12 hours before the assault.
On average they had drank the equivalent of four pints, but many could not recall how much they had consumed.
Some 49 could not recall if a sexual assault took place and 36 of these said it was due to the amount of alcohol they had taken.
Some 41 patients were concerned that they had been drugged and of these 35 said they had consumed alcohol.
They ranged in age from 13 to 85 years of age.
They included 25 men, mostly in their twenties and thirties.
Of the 317 who attended the Dublin unit, 69 - more than one in five - did not report the alleged assault to gardaí.
During the year the centre received funding which allowed it to facilitate the secure storage for up to a year of forensic evidence from women and men who were unsure if they wanted to go to gardaí.
The centre's director Dr Maeve Eogan said students accounted for more than one-third of the patients and the majority were single.
One-third alleged that they had been assaulted by a stranger.
All were offered follow-up screening for sexually transmitted infections and just 188 attended appointments.
"Such low return rates are not uncommon, both nationally and internationally, and have encouraged continued provision of prophylaxis for chlamydia at the time of the patient's initial attendance," she said.
August was the busiest month and Mondays the day most patients were seen.
Most patients presented within seven days of the sexual assault.
The earlier someone is seen the better for appropriate care and also collection of forensic evidence.
Of the 304 incidents which were reported to have taken place in the Republic, most happened in Dublin city or county.
Some 13 of the cases happened outside of Ireland.
Most attended within daytime hours.
However, one-third of the patients were seen between 9pm and 9am which "emphasises the continued need for a round-the-clock service", said the report.
Although the remit of the centre is to just treat patients over 14 years old, it had to look after three girls who were younger during the year.
This happened in cases where appropriate acute paediatric care could not be arranged.
It saw its highest number of patients in 2011 when 351 were treated.
Nationally all six centres across the country treated 685 new patients last year, the report stated.