Healthcare workers share their experiences of treating an influx of intoxicated people after the ban on the sale of alcohol was uplifted.
Healthcare workers share their experiences of treating an influx of intoxicated people after the ban on the sale of alcohol was uplifted.

Level 3 lockdown: Trauma cases 'flood' hospitals after alcohol ban lifted

By Chelsea Geach Time of article published Jun 6, 2020

Share this article:

“I’VE fought with multiple intoxicated people tonight so that they could get adequate care. I’ve consoled women whose partners have inflicted violence on them. People have stabbed each other, shot at each other and beaten each other to a pulp. 

People have driven under the influence resulting in numerous MVAs (motor vehicle accidents). And that’s on top of the sick kids and adults I’ve had to transfer for suspected Covid-19.”

These are the words of Dr Savannah Smith, who works in a Cape Town trauma unit. She posted these words on social media at the end of one of her shifts this week after the ban on the sale of alcohol was lifted.

Smith said victims of domestic violence were among those harmed by the excessive drinking.

“The negative effects of alcohol on society and the health-care system has always been around. It’s just harder to manage and cope with it when we’re going through a pandemic as well.”

Now, health-care workers across the province have begged the public to drink responsibly. Trauma cases flooded emergency centres this week after the alcohol ban was lifted on Monday. At Groote Schuur Hospital alone, the number of trauma patients more than doubled on the first day of alcohol sales, shooting from eight per day to 20, according to Western Cape Health Department spokesperson Mark van der Heever.

Dr Kim Alexander, who works in a Western Cape hospital, also spoke about the pressure placed on health-care workers by irresponsible drinking.

“We’ve made real sacrifices in our personal and professional lives... infection rates are rising and the government decides to lift the alcohol ban,” she said.

“In the past few months we have seen the lowest amount of trauma that our hospitals have ever seen. Today, there were multiple people that needed to be stitched. On top of the multiple people that needed to be managed and referred and isolated for Covid(-19).”

The Hout Bay Volunteer Emergency Medical Service, which provides ambulance services to the suburb, said alcohol was the cause behind many of their emergency calls during the week.

“Our volunteers responded to eight emergency incidents last night and unfortunately many of these were alcohol related. Please drink responsibly. Our healthcare system does not need the additional stress from alcohol related emergencies,” the organisation posted on Tuesday morning.

A similar increase was seen at Helderberg Hospital. “(Previously), in a 12-hour period, we saw 28 patients. On Monday, in a 12-hour period we saw 50 patients of which the majority was alcohol-related trauma,” Van der Heever said.

Premier Alan Winde said that the alcohol injuries were placing undue pressure on hospital capacity as they competed for care with Covid-19 patients.

“The Western Cape’s emergency and trauma units have already noted an increase in the number of alcohol related injuries and incidents,” Winde said.

Weekend Argus

Share this article: