Preventing abuse of alcohol

Dctors, from left, Anwar Kharwa, Kitesh Moodley and Saad Lahri are all worried about the abuse of alcohol in Khayelitsha.

Despite the efforts by government and its associates to deal with drinking problems through the Alcohol Harms Reduction Game Changer pilot project, alcohol and substance abuse remain the biggest significant challenge in Khayelitsha.

It is a problem that impacts badly socio-economically and is also a cause of young people’s death.

This was revealed during an oversight visit by MEC for Health, Dr Nomafrench Mbombo, on Monday January 22 to the Alcohol Harms Reduction Game Changer project at Khayelitsha District Hospital, one of the busiest hospitals in the city.

Khayelitsha Hospital doctors said an average of 200 people with stabbing wounds and gun wounds are treated at the hospital a month. The incidents are mostly alcohol related.

Explaining the reason for the congestion in the trauma and resuscitation units, Dr Kitesh Moodley and Dr Saad Lahri said young people are mostly the victims but older people were not spared and found themselves at the receiving end of alcohol related violence too.

Dr Moodley said the trauma unit treated 72% alcohol and drugs associated patients last year only. The resuscitation room treated 457 patients in August, 456 in September and 518 in December. Of these, 90% were males with an average age of 36.

The trauma united treated 200 patients a month but that increased in December to 227, a 13.5 increase. “Most are young boys. Alcohol reduction is highly needed in Khayelitsha. It is a significant challenge. The stabbings are neck, face, head and everywhere at times.

“We have to treat 45% (of patients) while we transfers 55% to Tygerberg Hospital,” he said.

He said it was worrying that many families are consuming alcohol on a huge scale. He, however, said the problem is not only in Khayelitsha but everywhere.

Emergency physician, Dr Saad Lahri, said alcohol and substance abuse were a global challenge but locally, Khayelitsha has a serious usage of the two. He said the hospital always treat people who are either stabbed or stabbed on big days and weekends.

He said on December 16 last year the hospital had five non-salvageable trauma deaths of young people. He said another problem contributor were things like Black Friday with their reduced alcohol prices. “Black Friday was an absolute disaster. We are still trying to collect the data on the day. We want to appeal to businesses not to put alcohol on sale. End of the month weekends are also a big challenge for us,” he said.

He said he was happy with the introduction of the Alcohol Harms Reduction Game Changer. He hopes that it will make a huge difference.

Dr Lahri said those who are are treated for alcohol related harm are screened and counselled.

Engaging the stakeholders at the hospital, Dr Mbombo emphasised the need for the game changer. She said alcohol related harm is destroying lives in the province, tearing apart the social fabric necessary to form resilient communities, and promote socio-economic development.

Dr Mbombo encouraged communities and the hospital board to work hand in hand in the fight against the alcohol scourge. She said the focus is on alcohol because it impact badly on the country. “The issue with alcohol is that people are losing jobs. It affects everyone in the house, including children. It has a socio-economic impact. That is why we have this pilot project. We are still going to introduce it in Gugulethu, Nyanga, Heideveld and other areas. We want to reduce deaths. The tap needs to be closed at the community level,” she said.

However, she said she was happy with how the project is welcomed and done at the hospital.

Chief executive officer of the hospital, Dr Anwar Kharwa, confirmed that Khayelitsha Hospital Emergency Centre (EC) is one of the busiest emergency centres in the metro, with an average headcount of 3 500 per month. He said the number include patients who present with a wide ranging set of problems, from minor to major illnesses, including road traffic crashes, and assault cases. He also confirmed that alcohol remains one of the biggest contributors to some of these cases that present to the hospital.

He said as a new hospital, there has been teething problems but he is happy they are steadily resolved.