Emergency and hospital staff bracing for another frenetically busy weekend

Nelson Mandela Bay hospital and ambulance personnel are bracing themselves for another horrendous weekend after alcohol abuse, violence and accidents flooded the city’s emergency rooms and mortuaries over the Christmas weekend.

Eastern Cape health department spokesman Sizwe Kupelo said alcohol abuse had likely contributed to both the road accidents and the other violence.

“In this province Christmas Day turned into human slaughter day.”

Emergency services were bracing themselves for a similar influx of trauma cases this weekend.

Kupelo said that by the end of the long Christmas weekend there had been 298 bodies piling up in state mortuaries around the province that had to be autopsied following deaths due to accidents or violence.

Of these, there were 36 in Nelson Mandela Bay: 18 at Gelvandale mortuary, 11 at Mount Road and seven at New Brighton. Mthatha mortuary received 73 bodies.

Kupelo said two people had died and seven had been critically injured in Nelson Mandela Bay in a taxi crash.

“This unfortunately created a delay in seeing the non-urgent cases as the urgent trauma cases needed to be given first priority.The backlog was however cleared by midnight on Saturday December 23.

“Unfortunately there was a large influx of medical emergencies on Saturday night and Sunday morning, which was unusual for the festive season. We had to see 40 medical emergencies with only one doctor on shift.”

The emergency theatre that forms part of Livingstone’s Accident and Emergency Unit saw 50 patients at the same time, with one doctor on shift.

Kupelo said there were only four doctors in total on shift in the emergency units at Livingstone and Dora Nginza – one in each hospital to deal with ill patients and one in each hospital to handle injured patients.

“On Sunday December 24 we worked to clear the backlog.

“But on Christmas Day we saw a new influx of patients. There were 37 medical patients on December 25 and 54 on December 26.

“In the trauma area we saw 104 trauma patients over two days,” Kupelo said.

“The contributing factors include that the clinics were all closed over the holidays.

“There were no out-patient ser vices.

“The increased use of alcohol also played a major role in making many chronic medical conditions worse.”

The head of Emergency Medical Services in the metro, Brenhan Metune, said it had responded to 22 call-outs for vehicle accidents in Nelson Mandela Bay and 25 in the Sarah Baartman district in the December 24 to 26 period.

The Sarah Baartman district includes GraaffReinet, Grahamstown, Somerset East, Port Alfred, Jeffreys Bay, Kirkwood and Kareedouw.

In these areas EMS ambulances had recorded a massive number of call-outs for violence cases, Metune said.

There were 279 cases in the Sarah Baartman district and 177 in Nelson Mandela Bay.

Sarah Baartman had double the number of call-outs of any of the districts in the province.

Of these 77 had been for gun-related violence in Nelson Mandela Bay and Sarah Baartman, Metune said. There were only two cases in the rest of the province.

The DA’s Celeste Barker said she would ask Health MEC Dr Pumza Dyantyi to explain why there were only four doctors on duty for emergencies during one of the busiest times of the year in emergency rooms.

“We honour the dedication and service ethics of the four doctors who helped approximately 200 patients each,” she said.

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