Research

Trauma patterns during the COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa expose vulnerability of women

A Zsilavecz, H Wain, J L Bruce, M T D Smith, W Bekker, G L Laing, E Lutge, D L Clarke

Abstract


Background. Trauma care places a significant burden on the South African (SA) healthcare system, and this has not changed significantly in recent history. We speculated that the COVID-19 lockdown regulations (travel restriction and alcohol ban) would affect trauma patterns.

Objectives. To compare the burden and nature of trauma over the COVID-19 lockdown period with the equivalent period over the past 5 years using routinely collected data from the Pietermaritzburg Metropolitan Trauma Service in KwaZulu-Natal Province, SA.

Methods. All trauma patients admitted to Grey’s Hospital in Pietermaritzburg between 23 March 2015 and 31 May 2020 were identified and reviewed.

Results. A total of 8 859 trauma patients were admitted over the 6-year period, with a total of 1 676 admitted during the periods 23 March - 31 May. These 1 676 formed the study cohort. Of these patients, 998 had sustained blunt trauma, 665 penetrating trauma, and 13 a combination of blunt and penetrating trauma. A total of 14 categories of blunt trauma were reviewed, of which the three most common were assault, motor vehicle accidents (MVAs) and pedestrian vehicle accidents (PVAs). Between 23 March and 31 May 2020, a total of 23 patients were victims of blunt assault. The median number of assault victims over the equivalent period during the previous 5 years was 48. The 5 preceding years had a median of 56 MVAs and 33 PVAs, compared with 23 and 10 during the lockdown. The median number of gunshot wound (GSW) victims for the preceding years was 41, compared with 30 during the lockdown. During the lockdown, 24 stab wound victims were admitted, compared with a median of 73 for the preceding years. The proportion of females who sustained penetrating trauma and blunt assault increased significantly during the lockdown. The proportion of females sustaining a GSW or blunt trauma secondary to an MVA remained constant.

Conclusions. The study showed that during the period of lockdown in SA there was a significant decrease in MVAs, PVAs and interpersonal violence. Assaults involving a knife seemed to decrease dramatically, but the rate of GSWs remained constant.


Authors' affiliations

A Zsilavecz, Department of Surgery, Grey’s Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

H Wain, Department of Surgery, Grey’s Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

J L Bruce, Department of Surgery, Grey’s Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

M T D Smith, Department of Surgery, Grey’s Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

W Bekker, Department of Surgery, Grey’s Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

G L Laing, Department of Surgery, Grey’s Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa

E Lutge, Epidemiology Unit, KwaZulu-Natal Department of Health, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; School of Nursing and Public Health, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

D L Clarke, Department of Surgery, Grey’s Hospital, Pietermaritzburg, South Africa; School of Nursing and Public Health, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; Department of Surgery, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa

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Keywords

COVID-19; Trauma; Gender-based violence; Female trauma

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2020;110(11):1110-1112. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2020.v110i11.15124

Article History

Date submitted: 2020-10-28
Date published: 2020-10-28

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