The alcohol-trauma ward debate is back.
The Gauteng health department has recorded over 350 new trauma cases since the ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages was lifted.
Just a month before on New Year’s Day, Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in Soweto recorded a historical zero trauma cases in its wards, when people would normally drink to excess, filling up the trauma ward.
The periodic bans on alcohol sales during the Covid-related lockdown period has been contentious, with civil society appearing to largely agree with affected corporate entities that these would ultimately cripple the economy and unnecessarily infringe on people’s comforts (to buy and drink alcohol).
But the government has since made a point of publishing recorded trauma cases post these bans, in order to demonstrate the burden South Africa’s drinking problem placed on its under-resourced and chronically unstable public healthcare system.
Speaking to 702’s Clement Manyathela on Tuesday morning, provincial health department deputy director-general Dr Freddy Kgongwana said since the lifting of the December ban, trauma cases increased from around 180 at the beginning of February to 500 to date.
Sociology and anthropology professor at Stellenbosch University, Dr Jantjie Xaba, said while it was all good and well to point out the causal relationship between excessive drinking, violence and injury, society needed to come to realize that there was something wrong with the way people in South Africa consumed alcohol. It was not just as simple as saying alcohol is bad for one’s health.
“This issue needs a holistic approach. We have the involvement of government which does have a responsibility to its citizens, but it also has a responsibility to ensure the corporates who benefit from this invest their money in the country and operate in a way that is sustainable and responsible,” he said.
On the other end of the need to protect industries from collapsing because of the pandemic, was the opportunity for companies and civil society to play their part in dealing with the root causes of alcohol abuse, which leads to injury and violence.
“If you listen to the health sector they are telling you that there is a causality between alcohol and trauma cases. Every time we lift the ban, we see the trauma case rise. Even some traffic officials will tell you those motorcar accidents also increase.
“My solution to this would be for the government to take a holistic approach to solving this,” Xaba said.