FIGURES: Weskaap Health MEC Nomafrench Mbombo. PHOTO: COURTNEY AFRICA.
The Western Cape had more than 1 000 medical emergencies per day over the festive season.

It truly is a staggering number, but even more jaw dropping is the fact that close to 100 of those were assaults.

So from 15 December to 15 January, a total of 96 people were assaulted with a weapon in the Western Cape.

The Health MEC, Nomafrench Mbombo, released the figures last week and it was quite sobering to see how our behaviour stretches government’s medical resources to breaking point.

And then we complain about the slow service, when we have to make use of government hospitals.

Here’s another figure that actually makes me quite angry.

BODIES: The already overburdened Salt River Mortuary. PHOTO:BRENTON GEACH/INLSA

It costs R22 000 to treat a gunshot victim. Add emergency surgery to the bill, and it shoots up to almost R50 000.

And that’s not including the ambulance service and emergency treatment, when they first arrive. And if the victims die, then an expensive autopsy is required.

Suddenly, you’re looking at a figure closer to R100 000; often spent on one single gangster with little to no regard for life.

All this death has placed huge pressure on the Cape’s mortuaries.

Last year there were more than 8 000 bodies that had to be accommodated at the Tygerberg and Salt River mortuaries.

These are such crazy numbers that it actually took me a while to digest and contextualise them.

The MEC was at pains to emphasise the impact all this violence has on the medical service providers, the provincial budget and society.

And it appears much of the violence stems from substance abuse.

Mbombo said: “This is a call to the public to consider these facts, especially how the choice to consume alcohol irresponsibly, not only impacts the individual, but robs other patients of much need medical attention.”

There’s another impact we rarely consider; the snowball effect that eventually comes back to us and our loved ones.

When service is so painfully slow at a government hospital, we don’t realise that it’s our own socially irresponsible behaviour that leads to over-stretched staff who have to give preference to emergencies (like gunshot wounds sustained in gang fights) and therefore can’t get to us.

I find them staggering because these are costs that we can control.

While they obviously and directly affect the services we receive, the psychological costs caused by the trauma is immeasurable; and is another entire conversation on its own.

There are numerous reasons for us to work together towards making our communities safer places.

But here is one that gives it a financial value that we can all appreciate.

Ask yourself how much good could be achieved with R100 000 in our communities.

Now multiply that by every fatal shooting that we know of in the course of a year, and suddenly the financial implication becomes clear.

So next time you are frustrated by the long hospital queue, think about your friendly neighbourhood skollie, who boasts about how many others he has shot; and how you aren’t doing anything about it.

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