A PORT Elizabeth doctor has hit out at the government for failing to keep taxi accident statistics necessary to develop public health plans for the long-term rehabilitation of crash victims.
Instead, rehabilitation expert Dr Rob Campbell said victims were patched up, cast aside and often die of neglect long after the actual crash.
State hospitals in Port Elizabeth have excellent intensive care units, but Campbell said there were not enough nurses in general wards to look after seriously injured people.
“They will die in the wards or they will be discharged from hospital back into communities with no support. Then they will die at home. One almost gets the idea that the Department of Health has decided that this is a group of people that it can sacrifice.”
Meanwhile, government departments and agencies are passing the buck on whose job it is to keep statistics.
“It is very expensive to treat the victims of accidents, including taxi accidents. They are just not considered a priority,” said Campbell, who is also the co-founder of the privately owned Aurora Hospital that specialises in rehabilitation.
He said it cost R1-million to properly treat a person with the most catastrophic of traumatic injuries – a spinal cord injury – in the first year and R500000 for every year after that.
“Our biggest problem in South Africa is that we do not know how many injured people there are,” he said. “This makes it impossible to devise a strategy to deal with it.”
Campbell said he had the distinct impression that the Department of Health feared the enormous costs associated with the rehabilitation of accident victims and would therefore not prioritise their care.
He said unless the department started keeping statistics it would be impossible to find out what the impact on healthcare budgets would be.
“What we do know is that the Department of Health admitted in a case before the Constitutional Court it they had neither the manpower nor the infrastructure to provide the necessary medical care and rehabilitation to the victims of motor vehicle accidents, including taxis,” he said.
Despite being the public insurer for victims of taxi accidents, the Road Accident Fund did not keep statistics, spokesman Sello Mosotho said.
“While we are aware that large components of road users make use of taxis as a means of transport daily, the RAF cannot say definitively what impact these sorts of accidents have in South Africa because we do not collate these statistics,” he said.
Eastern Cape Health Department spokesman Siyanda Manana said statistics on injuries sustained in taxi accidents were not recorded by hospitals.
“These cases do cause a significant burden on the public health system that is entirely avoidable,” Manana said.
Separate statistics on taxi accidents were also not recorded by the province’s Transport Department, spokesman Ncedo Kumbaca said. According to Road Traffic Management Corporation figures, 564 fatal taxi crashes were recorded in 2012. – Estelle Ellis