Liquor Conference Highlights Burden of Alcohol on Health Budget
This weekend, with role players from across the province gathering at the second annual Liquor Conference to discuss the new provincial liquor legislation, and the City of Cape Town's by-law on trading hours, it is important to point out the huge burden that alcohol-related incidents and accidents place on the provincial budget.
In the Western Cape alone, it is estimated that up to fifty percent (50%) of the R12 billion spent by the provincial Department of Health is spent on health issues directly and indirectly related to alcohol abuse - mostly conditions that are completely avoidable. Alcohol-related incidents in the Western Cape account for a huge burden on Emergency Centres at hospitals throughout the province. Almost fifty percent (50%) of the trauma cases treated at Emergency Centres at hospitals is alcohol-related.
A research study conducted by the University of Cape Town, shows that the burden of disease associated with alcohol related road accidents alone is in the region of R4 billion per annum in the Western Cape. We should be using this money to address poverty and poor living conditions.
As long as drug- and alcohol abuse is the order of the day, government is unable to create employment and investment opportunities, which will benefit the residents of the Western Cape.
The liquor conference forms part of provincial government's plan to tackle substance and alcohol abuse as part of the strategic objective to increase wellness, rather than treat illness. For the Department Health this approach is a major shift away from the management of disease, to the prevention of disease - which in the long term would mean that the province will need less health facilities.
The substance abuse strategy covers both alcohol and drug abuse, and involves extending drug intervention services to key hospitals, increasing the number and reach of drug treatment programmes, increasing the provision of psycho-social support services at schools, the implementation of the Liquor Act, the increase of aftercare and reintegration services for victims of substance abuse and the introduction of case management and monitoring and evaluation tools for all provincial substance abuse services.
At present the Department of Health is setting up the infrastructure in partnership with the private sector, to set up infrastructure and training programmes to combat alcohol misuse and drug abuse, as well as intervention services targeted at reaching at least five thousand (5000) people in the province per year. The majority of these are at out-patient facilities, but for those in dire straits - also at in-patient facilities.
It is important to realise that at present provincial government is spending money on the effects associated with the cycle of poverty and despair, and the resultant socio-economic issues - crime, unemployment, violence, neglect, abuse and risky sexual behaviour - meaning that we are forced treat symptoms, rather than address causes.
With regard to the issues discussed at the liquor conference, it is important to note that the policy changes initiated by provincial government, is targeted towards communities where the misuse and abuse of alcohol are rife, and the ultimate aim of the campaign is to stop the cycle of destruction, and accelerate the cycle of growth and development.
Western Cape Minister of Health