Impact of violent crime on Western Cape health system
In commemorating World Trauma Day today (17 October), the Western Cape Government Health (WCGH) is appealing to the public to help reduce the number of trauma-related incidents.
Trauma is an increasingly obvious part of our larger society, and is of increasing concern in the Western Cape. It is impossible, particularly in the environment in which health workers operate, not to be confronted with trauma and its effects. This is particularly the case in violent and stressed communities where health services are often most needed. Health workers often bear the brunt of traumatic stress, which severely impacts their personal functioning, interpersonal relationships and employment, and it is associated with a variety of other psychological conditions, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), anxiety, depression and somatisation.
Violence and trauma affects many health workers (not only EMS crews)
During the first quarter of the financial year (1 April – 30 June 2019), there have been 634 reported cases of security incidents. Of these the main types of incidents were:
- 382 incidents of threatening behaviour towards staff;
- 60 incidents of theft/burglary;
- 54 incidents of damage to property; and
- 52 incidents of physical assault
Safety and security of patients and staff is a critical focus area for the Western Cape Government Health and has seen our Department investing more than R273 million on security guarding at our facilities during the previous financial year.
Impact of trauma on emergency medical services
A total of 16 assaults on emergency medical services (EMS) personnel and service vehicles have been reported this year. For EMS, the outcomes of trauma are absenteeism and the increased prevalence of work-related illnesses, all of which contributes to less resources available to respond to emergencies. Often this causes diminished responses in the most vulnerable communities.
Addressing the trauma created by high levels of violence, requires a whole of society approach, where many sectors and members of the community are involved in finding solutions.
As an example of extended community engagement, WCGH wishes to strengthen the work already done in communities. This helps to create better understanding and a group of volunteers who are able to assist communities when they must wait for an ambulance. Since 2014, the WCGH has supported the Emergency First Aid Responders (EFAR) programme in Ocean View. To date, a total of 130 EFAR volunteers have successfully undergone training in community basic first aid and disaster relief skills. This enables communities to have immediate emergency responders available in the event of a disaster.
Then, there are also those community members who routinely assist our EMS crews. For instance, on Sunday the community members of Samora Machel, Philippi, came to the rescue of EMS personnel when they assisted the crew in changing the ambulance vehicle’s tyre. This assistance enabled the crew to quickly change the tyre and attend to the incident which they had been called to respond to.
The WCGH urges our residents to protect health workers while they are rendering a very important service, and to be vigilant at all times when visiting health facilities.
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Byron la Hoe
Department of Health
Western Cape Government
Mobile: 072 368 0596