The impact of violence, trauma and alcohol on the health system has been thrown into the spotlight after Western Cape MEC of Health Dr Nomafrench Mbombo revealed that gunshot victims cost at least R22 000 each to treat in Western Cape hospitals.
Mbombo revealed the staggering figure when the department of health was discussing its operations during the festive season on Tuesday.
However, according to Western Cape health department Marika Champion, this figure is likely much higher.
Champion explained that this figure was likely just the trauma portion of a gunshot wound cost, noting that the patient will most likely also need to go to theatre which incurs more cost as per the requirement of a doctor, nurses and resources.
Champion highlighted that these cases also have a ripple effect and impact time allocation, resource stocks and workload of forensic and pathology services.
“The effect on the entire health system is devasting because ambulances will take longer (as) Emergency Medical Service (EMS) members have to prioritize these cases to save lives. Doctors and nurses at hospitals have to do the same. Everyone else that needs treatment will have to wait.”
Champion explained that these cases are often life-threatening and it becomes the hospitals priority to save that life.
Areas that have been identified as “Red Zones” where there are high rates of violence are at particular risk because EMS members have to wait for a SAPS escort to make sure these people are safe, which negatively affects response time.
Forensic and pathology services are also affected as every unnatural death has to be thoroughly investigated and a report has to be completed. Champion said this affects the families waiting for the remains of the deceased.
Champion pointed out that there is usually an increase in cases over the festive season. She said the centers received around 30 00 patients between 15 December 2019 and 15 January 2019.
Injuries from violent trauma such as stabbing and gunshot to interpersonal violence stood at 8000 which equates to 23%. nearly 3000 of these cases were as a result of assault with a weapon. Physical assaults amounted to 956 while there were 804 accidental injury cases. A further 1 141 were a direct result of violence.
She added the increase in violence has put a huge strain on the department.
“The Health department doesn’t have all the answers, but the level of violence is really high. From a health perspective we are faring badly.”
Champion also noted that the rate of intrapersonal violence and rape seems to be on the increase and that staff are not immune to trauma.
“We mustn’t lose sight of the psychological effect that (these incidents) have on staff. Both EMS and Health staff are negatively affected.”
Amid several concerns that hospitals are not functioning optimally or are currently in a bad condition, Champion appeal to the public to report what they are unhappy with as soon as possible as complaints that are dealt with on site are more likely to be resolved.
“Speak to someone on site such as the nursing or medical manager on duty and report it. Be sure to take the names of those you spoke to and bring it to the staff’s attention.”
Other channels include calling 0860 142 142 or sending an email detailing your grievances to firstname.lastname@example.org.