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MCH services during COVID-19: more family violence reporting

MCH services during COVID-19: more family violence reporting

Maree Burgess, ANMF (Vic Branch) President and Banyule City Council MCH nurse

Mothers have been more open about their experiences of family violence and mental health problems in telehealth consultations during the COVID-19 lockdown, Banyule City Council maternal and child health nurse and ANMF (Vic Branch) President Maree Burgess said.

‘They’re a bit more in touch with how they’re really feeling and wanting to talk to people,’ Maree observed.

Maree made more referrals regarding family violence than usual during the ‘stay at home’ period of restrictions.

Maree’s experience was supported by data from a Monash University survey of 166 family violence practitioners from late April to early May, which found that almost 60 per cent of practitioners said the COVID-19 pandemic had increased the frequency of violence against women.

Half the practitioners said the severity of family violence had increased. For 42 per cent of practitioners, the number of first-time family violence reports had also increased.

During the Covid-19 restrictions period, most  MCH services continued face-to-face consultations  but reduced the duration of visits, Maree said. These were in additional to the lengthy phone consultations.

From the beginning of May, Banyule City Council MCH nurses resumed undertaking 15-minute face-to-face milestone assessments of babies at two weeks, four weeks and eight weeks, while complying with the Victorian Government’s guidelines.

‘We are complying with the guidelines around working from home and physical distancing, while being mindful of the needs to check the physical health of babies, and review their growth and feeding,’ Maree said.

Only one parent or guardian can attend with the baby for the assessments at Banyule’s MCH centres during the Covid-19 restrictions.

Maree said that, prior to May, most MCH consultations during the Covid-19 physical distancing/working from home period have been conducted remotely, with one centre offering short face-to-face assessments for vulnerable families or babies having feeding difficulties.

‘We’ve even been offering a lactation consultancy by phone, by Skype or Microsoft Teams,’ Maree said.