Many emergency workers in Cape Town are being booked off with burnout and post-traumatic stress disorder due to the city’s high gun violence rate.
This was revealed by Prof Andrew Nicol – head of trauma at Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town – at a media briefing on Thursday.
At Groote Schuur, the province’s second-biggest hospital, the number of patients with gunshot injuries had doubled in the past eight years from 36 cases a month to 73, he said. The biggest hospital, Tygerberg, treats another 107.
Nicol said the intensity of trauma had also shifted from single-shot wounds to multiple shots. A 52-year-old woman who was shot 37 times during a house robbery, he said.
These high levels of violence and the severity of the injuries are driving health workers to their sick bed.
“It does cause damage, especially to our young doctors who are exposed to this massive level of violence and who work on weekends often with intoxicated patients. It’s taking a toll on them,” said Nicol.
Over the last three years, at least 100 EMS staff had taken time off due to post-traumatic stress disorder, and the number was probably higher because staff did not always disclose the reason for their sick leave.
Violence had also had a devastating effect on ambulance response times. Over the last two years, the number of “priority one” calls attended to within 15 minutes had fallen from 65% to 12% because crews had to wait for police escorts before entering dangerous “red zones”.
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