Aug 2020 1st edition

Bad behaviour results in alcohol ban

 A trauma surgeon has welcomed President Cyril Ramaphosa’s efforts to sober up South Africa, saying that heavy drinking was causing a headache for hospitals.

The sale of alcohol was once again banned in South Africa in the middle of July because of the number of people needing emergency care in hospitals as a result of drunken behaviour.

Instead of being available to help people who were very sick from the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), hospitals were treating patients wounded in car accidents or fights that were caused by drinking too much.

Professor Steve Moeng, who is head of trauma at Gauteng’s Charlotte Maxeke Hospital, explains that under level five of the lockdown, the hospitals’ emergency rooms were nice and quiet but each time the country went to a lower level, the number of people needing emergency treatment at our hospitals increased.

  He says that since the country moved to level four of the lockdown on 1 June, hospitals have seen more trauma cases.

“Unfortunately, this has had a negative impact in terms of our ability to deal with the COVID-19 load in our hospitals,” he says, explaining that in South Africa, most of the trauma cases dealt with by hospitals are related to alcohol.

Moeng, who is also the academic head of trauma at the University of the Witwatersrand, says when the emergency rooms are full, hospitals are not able to give as much time and resources to COVID-19 as needed.

He says there is a need to re-evaluate society’s relationship with alcohol because too many people are not able to drink responsibly and instead become drunk and disorderly and behave recklessly or badly as a result.

Emergency rooms tell the story of the impact on South Africa of the abuse of alcohol, with doctors spending most weekends stitching up victims of domestic abuse, car crashes or violent fights.  -


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