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Cape Town’s gun violence causing post-traumatic stress disorder in emergency health workers

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.

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“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”.

More: Times Live

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