St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne family violence clinical notifications: the effect on risk and protective factors related to the COVID-19 pandemic

Ms Melinda Collins1, Ms Marianne Crowe1, Ms Fiona Manning1, Ms Voula Kallianis1

1St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne, Fitzroy , Australia

Background: The COVID-19 pandemic was identified to potentially exacerbate risk factors, place victim survivors at increased risk of family violence and create new challenges for clinicians at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne (SVHM) to identify and respond to cases of family violence.

Aim and Method: To identify the impact of COVID-19 on cases of family violence at SVHM, an exploratory study was undertaken combining 1) a retrospective audit of notifications and clinical notes of patients who had a family violence notification from 1/3/2020 to 31/10/2020 and 2) conducting focus groups with staff working with these patients.

Descriptive analysis (quantitative and qualitative) was conducted.

Results: The COVID-19 pandemic impacted one-third of family violence cases identified through audit (n=282 audits). In COVID-19 impacted cases, the age range was 18-92 years and 79% were female. The direct impact of COVID-19 related job losses, financial concerns, housing instability and social isolation were strongly identified. Themes included deterioration in mental health, increased substance use and reduced access to services. COVID-19 related impacts eroded the protective factors of victim survivors. Staff (n=16) described increased risk, increased opportunities to use violence and increased victim survivor fear for their safety. Staff reported a multidisciplinary shared sense of responsibility and willingness to respond to family violence during the pandemic.

Conclusions and Clinical Implications: Results have confirmed that the COVID 19 pandemic had a significant effect on patients experiencing family violence and presenting to SVHM. Results have provided further evidence to inform clinician education and support patient safety and care needs.

The authors would like to acknowledge Ms Sabeena Mozzafar, a Melbourne University student on her final Social Work Placement at SVHM, for her contribution to this project.


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