Staff at The Kilmore and District Hospital and Northern Health will be better trained to deal with instances of family violence as part of a new project.

Visiting medical officers, general practitioners and other medical practitioners from across the Hume region attended an education event last week through the Strengthening Hospital Reponses to Family Violence project.

The event, at The Grove Hidden Valley, taught medical practitioners ways to identify and respond to family violence.

The Kilmore and District Hospital director of medical services Dr Martin Duffy said Mitchell Shire had the second-highest incidence of family violence in Victoria so it was important for medical professionals to address the issue.

“We felt a sense of urgency around this issue so we decided to prioritise that and make it the first education event for our doctors around responding to family violence,” he said.

Strengthening Hospital’s Responses to Family Violence project officer Jane Goldsmith said the project came out of the Royal Commission into Family Violence.

“We know evidence shows that for people who are experiencing family violence, often hospitals and health care services are their first port of call so it really is a simple message,” she said.

“It’s identifying, recognising, responding and referring to family violence.

“Given the facts of Mitchell Shire, we know we’re not capturing those disclosures of family violence so part of the project aim is to equip our staff with the skills to identify those people and really bring it to the forefront.”

The event discussed red flags hospital staff should look for and ways to initiate conversations sensitively.

“These are difficult conversations to initiate so giving staff a framework around how to initiate these conversations sensitively with some opening questions and a framework for making sensitive inquiries,” Dr Duffy said.

“Having done that, it’s about understanding what resources are available in our area and within our networks to refer and get people the help they need.

“The hospital is a safe place for people experiencing family violence and our door is always open.

“When people present to our health service, if they are having a family violence issue, they can trust that they’re going to be dealt with sensitively and we have people specially trained to help respond.”