Concern over opening hours at new sexual assault centre

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The DUP's Pam Brown questioned the decision to restrict the opening hours for the new sexual assault referral centre (SARC) at Antrim Hospital, on 23 April 2013.

Ms Brown welcomed the opening of the centre, known as The Rowan, saying that domestic violence was prevalent in Northern Ireland and that the figures for sexual violence were growing.

The South Antrim MLA said the opening hours of 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday were more suited to a health centre.

She noted that the Archway SARC in Glasgow was open 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Sue Ramsey of Sinn Fein, who chairs the Health Committee, echoed Ms Brown's "genuine concerns" over the opening hours.

Justice Minister David Ford said he would speak as a constituency member.

He welcomed the centre's capability "to get the care services alongside the justice services".

Mr Ford said he was not so concerned about the opening hours in the first instance as "there will be staff on call out of hours".

Health Minister Edwin Poots welcomed the opening of the "victim-focussed regional facility".

In reply to the concerns about the opening hours the minister said:

"The Rowan will be open to deal with a victim at any time on a 24/7 basis 365 days per year, and all victims seen at at the Rowan will receive the same level of specialist support whether they attend during out-of-hours or during core hours."

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