Protecting children from abuse and neglect is the aim of a new role that the Whanganui District Health Board is considering establishing.
The board's community and public health advisory committee on Friday received an evaluation report on the board's violence intervention programme.
The evaluation was carried out by Jane Koziol-McLain from Auckland University of Technology, who recommended, among other things, that the board establish a part-time child protection coordinator position, separate from the existing violence intervention coordinator position.
Wanganui Hospital's clinical head of paediatric services, David Montgomery, attended the committee's meeting, along with Tim Metcalfe from the Family Violence Network and Barbara Charuk, the board's violence intervention coordinator.
Dr Montgomery said Whanganui was the only DHB in the country that did not have a dedicated child protection coordinator, and he endorsed Professor Koziol-McLain's call.
Dr Montgomery said that in Wanganui Hospital's neo-natal unit at any one time, there was at least one baby whose family had issues with abuse, neglect or addiction.
"That's a large number, considering how much work goes into trying to sort out these issues. It's a big part of what we do on a day-to-day basis.
"And that's just us, as a child health provider. There's also the emergency department which sees a lot of injuries in children, and then there's GPs which see children presenting with a huge range of problems," Dr Montgomery said.
He said while hospital staff tried their best, abuse and neglect were easily missed when children came to the hospital.
"Worldwide, 15 per cent of presentations to ED are violence-related, and I estimate we recognise around 2 per cent."
Dr Montgomery said he saw the role of child protection coordinator as "multi-faceted" and would be largely education-focused.
"Education around violence issues is very important for all our departments."
He said the role would also involve coordination, assistance with policy and process development, and a "go-to" person for people in the community.
Committee member Judith MacDonald asked whether it would be suitable for the role to spread over the Manawatu-Whanganui region, but Dr Montgomery said he believed local knowledge was important.
"The coordinator would have to have really close relationships with relevant agencies. I believe it would be difficult for a Wanganui person to take up this role in the Manawatu, and vice versa."
There was some discussion about whether funding for the role would be included in the 2013-14 budget.
Tracey Schiebli, general manager for business and planning, said the board could look at finding funding within the existing budget if it was felt the role needed to be established sooner rather than later.