The price of a single bullet is as little as R6‚ but treating a gunshot wound in a South African public hospital comes with a hefty price tag for the government‚ which forks out about R25 000 for each patient.
The impact of these injuries on the state coffers is revealed in a report published in the SA Medical Journal.
“While the mortality rate attributable to firearms in SA is high‚ the burden of non-fatal firearm-related injuries is far worse‚” the report said.
The report‚ titled The Burden of Gunshot Injuries on Orthopaedic Healthcare Resources in South Africa‚ refers to a survey taken of 111 patients between the ages of 13 and 74 who were treated for non-fatal gunshot wounds at the Groote Schuur Hospital in Cape Town in 2012.
Among those admitted‚ 135 surgeries were performed.
“Of these procedures‚ 112 were orthopaedic‚ 13 were orthopaedic with concurrent general or vascular surgery procedures‚ and 10 were other non-orthopaedic trauma procedures. These 135 operations required a cumulative surgical time of 220 hours 3 minutes and cumulative anaesthesia time of 306 hours 25 minutes‚” the report said.
“For the 112 exclusively orthopaedic procedures‚ the average anaesthesia time was 117 minutes‚ while surgical time averaged 79 minutes.”
“Theatre costs‚ excluding implants‚ were in excess of USD94 490 (over R1.2 million). Eighty of the patients received a total of 99 implants during surgery‚ which raised theatre costs an additional USD53 381 (over R700 000) cumulatively‚ or USD667 (R8 840) per patient‚” the report further revealed.
Further funds were pumped into full-body X-rays‚ CT scans‚ medication and blood transfusions.
On top of all of this‚ a gunshot victim usually required a 10-day hospital stay‚ averaging around R2 000 a day.
In 2012‚ Groote Schuur Hospital spent a total of R2.7 million solely on the 111 patients it treated for orthopaedic gunshot wounds.
Almost 55 000 gun-related injuries were treated that year nationally‚ meaning billions were shot into medical care.
This all excluded the salaries paid to staff who dealt with the patients.
“The study did not include labour costs‚ as it was not possible to monitor and equitably monetarise the time staff spent tending to each patient‚” the report said.
– A box containing 20 of the cheapest rounds of ammunition – the full metal rounds – goes for R120 for 20 bullets‚ a gun shop owner in Johannesburg told TimesLIVE on Tuesday.