The lifting of the ban on the selling of alcohol at the beginning of June has had an impact on hospital trauma units both in the private and public sector. According to reports, these cases are usually involved in car accidents and assaults with gender-based violence forming a part of them.
According to Dr Michelle Myburgh, Head of the Mediclinic Bloemfontein Emergency Centre, there was a slight increase in alcohol-related cases during the first week of June. “It’s difficult to put an exact number on this as most of the patients that presented with injuries had no given history of alcohol intake or obvious toxicity. No more than five patients admitted during this time had obvious association with alcohol intake. Those admitted were mainly assaults, although very few,” she said.
On the other hand, Pelonomi Hospital saw no less than 75 cases during the same time. “There has been a huge difference between now and before alcohol was freely available. There were 75 alcohol- related cases at Pelonomi during that first week. The cases were admitted for various cases of alcohol-related car crashes, assaults and gender-based violence,” explained Free State Health spokesperson, Mondli Mvambi.
According to Aurora Alcohol and Drug Centre’s senior social worker, Marietjie Landsberg, the impact of alcohol consumption on the body’s central nervous system changes the way you think, feel and act. “When you consider the lack of impulse control and inability to make rational decisions, it explains why some people will get involved in assaults, drunk driving and gender-based violence while under the influence,” she explained.
Although not all assaults and cases of domestic violence are related to alcohol, the lifting of the ban has coincided with gruesome cases of gender-based violence across the country. Landsberg expressed that although an outright ban on sales usually feeds the illegal market for alcohol, restrictions in sales may be part of the solution to fighting alcohol abuse.
“There is not one single approach to address the problem. The latest research indicates that a multi-pronged approach needs to be followed, which includes demand, supply and harm reduction,” she said.
“By limiting the availability of alcohol, it can lead to the prevention of abuse. This can be done by law enforcement and strict distribution control. Restricting trading hours for liquor stores and other outlets that sell alcohol are examples that can be implemented in this regard,” added Landsberg.