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350% increase in trauma patients during alcohol unbanning

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The Western Cape Department of Health has welcomed the reinstatement of the ban on alcohol sales, given the recent rise in alcohol-related traumas being reported at hospitals across the province. It comes as President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the reimplementation of the ban in order to alleviate strain on the healthcare system, which has seen an influx of trauma cases.

Speaking to VOC’s Breakfast Beat on Wednesday, the departments’ head of communications Marika Champion explained that it had done evaluations at five facilities in the Cape Metro indicated a clear rise in violent incidents before and after. She noted that these often have a knock-on effect whereby emergency or trauma patients are prioritized, deviating resources from other patients – including those infected with COVID-19.

Although the reinstatement of the ban was widely welcomed, the impact of these incidents became evident through the surveys which showed exponential figures.

“Between May and June 2020, the number of trauma patients requiring high or ICU care at a tertiary hospital in the Western Cape increased from a daily average of 2.7 to 9.5 – which is a 350% increase in trauma patients,” said Champion.

She also highlighted the increase in road accidents, which saw an increase of 260%.  This was derived from a daily average of 1.4 to 3.7. Champion said that various other details were also evident through a 2016 survey, which found the following increases:

  • 50% homicide,
  • 60% pedestrian fatalities
  • 40% motor vehicle accidents
  • 45% fires
  • and 70% more drownings

The reintroduction of a curfew between 9pm and 4am was also welcomed, with Champion pointing out that although the department cannot make a scientific call “the anecdotal view is that most of the pedestrian and motor vehicle accidents occur at night.”

Concern over the healthcare system’s capability to deal with COVID-19 patients were also put to rest, with Champion highlighting numerous field hospitals dedicated to accommodating high care COVID-19 patients.

“I don’t think the health system is designed to be able to withstand this high level (of trauma),” she said.

“There are beds (at the field hospitals) where patients can get treated in a higher care manner than what would be normal at a district hospital. They have been specifically designed to take pressure off the other facilities.”

Commenting on whether the Western Cape has reached its peak number of infections, Champion said she couldn’t give a definitive answer. Scientists say the number of infections of Covid-19 has stabilised in the Western Cape, while Gauteng has become the epicentre. Champion noted that figures in the Western Cape have evened out over the last week.

“We do seem to see a stabilization of hospitalizations and deaths and that is an important measure to look at where we are.  We are cautiously optimistic that we don’t foresee it going up again. But we can’t say, we literally have to look at the data every day and look at what it’s telling us,” she said.

She emphasised the need for continued collaboration to minimize the spread of the virus, which has claimed over 2400 lives in the province.

“Whether we’re on an early, late or even flat peak, whether we’re going to have more than one peak; there isn’t a vaccine. Until such a time we all must remain extremely vigilant, behavioural change is key. We really should all stand together and protect the ones that are most vulnerable in our society.”

VOC


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