By Tauhierah Salie
The Western Cape Health Department has revealed that trauma cases in the province have doubled since the move to level 2 lockdown last week, many of which have been alcohol-related. Various field hospitals have closed since then, due to the number of Covid 19 infections and hospitalizations stabilizing.
Speaking to VOC on Tuesday, chief of operations Dr Saadiq Kariem explained that the department has been consistently keeping track of the statistics and that the influx of people returning to work and the accompanying increase in movement of people now able to visit family and attend gatherings of up to 50 people, has contributed to admissions. However, that there is a “clear association” between the lifting of the alcohol ban and increases in trauma cases.
“Every time it’s been lockdown and opened, over three or four periods, we see this pattern (where) the trauma numbers jump up dramatically. A lot of these patients require intensive care, while 85% of these had alcohol (in their system),” he said.
Dr Kariem revealed that the number of trauma cases at the provinces biggest hospitals have doubled when comparing the weekend of the 15-16 August 2020 to those of the weekend passed, 22-23 August 2020. The hospitals that were monitored are inclusive of Groote Schuur Hospital, Tygerberg Hospital, Somerset Hospital, Khayelitsha Hospital and Mitchells Plain Hospital.
“Unfortunately, it was another, traumatic weekend over the Cape Flats. To give you an example at Mitchells Plain hospital, the weekend before we roughly had 25 patients over a 24-hour period. This weekend, that number jumped to 55. The same pattern holds for virtually all the other hospitals where the trauma cases either doubled or more than doubled.”
Using Mitchells Plain hospital’s admissions as an example once more, Dr Karriem gave a description of the nature of the incidents.
“There were 12 gunshot wounds, 25 penetrating assaults- mostly stabbings, 11 blunt assaults and 11 pedestrian and motor vehicle accidents. At one of the other hospitals, unfortunately, we had a few cases of Gender-Based Violence as well,” said Dr Kariem.
He added however that the provincial health department is confident that it has enough capacity to cater to both Covid-19 and trauma cases.
“We are able to accommodate the trauma’s and covid-19 cases; fortunately, because our numbers are decreasing in the province. We measure the occupancy rate and over the past few days it is still hovering over the 71% mark,” he said.
Meanwhile, Transport Minister Fikile Mbalula has revisited talks of the demerit system, where a zero percent alcohol limit for drivers remains a possibility.
The minister had on Monday called for a review and tightening of alcohol laws, following accidents and arrests involving drunk drivers over the weekend. The latest fatalities include three Tshwane metro police officers who died in a head-on collision while chasing a suspected drunk driver.
The Transport department is in the process of implementing the Administrative Adjudication of Road Traffic Offences Act.