JIS News

Consultant orthopaedic surgeon at the Bustamante Hospital for Children, Dr. M. D. Sawh, has said that the high incidence of road accidents is placing a tremendous financial burden on the victims and the health care system, with costs estimated in the billions.
“The costs are tremendous. Hospital costs, direct costs are around $250 million. If you look at the total cost in terms of loss of earnings, cost of physiotherapy, and cost of psychological care, the actual cost is closer to $2 billion,” he stated.
The orthopedic surgeon was speaking at the launch of the Road Safety Unit’s Defensive Driving Media and Public Education Campaign at the Hilton Kingston hotel on Tuesday (Nov. 6).
Citing the Ministry of Health’s road traffic statistics for 2005, Dr. Sawh said that 13, 000 traffic accident-related injuries were recorded for the year, which breaks down to five hospital admissions per day.
Noting that children are also victims, he said that at the 250-bed Bustamante Hospital for Children, “we’re going to admit 15, 000 children this year.”
“Of these 15,000 admissions, 3, 500 will be surgical operations, of which about 1, 000 will be emergency operations. My service (orthopedic) will do most of the emergencies (skeletal, muscle and joint injuries).
About 10 per cent of all the surgical cases are going to be orthopedic emergencies, and if you consider the fact that I’m seeing 150 to 200 patients per week in the outpatient department, plus another 20 patients in casualty, this needs to stop. We have a 24-bed ward and we’re running on average at 100 to 120 per cent of capacity,” the surgeon lamented.
“So anything that we can do to reduce the number of admissions for a 250-bed hospital is going to be very useful. You can imagine what the turnover is like, and the amount of stress that the staff has,” he said.
In the meantime, Dr. Sawh noted that the road fatality for children (under the age of 14) is gradually increasing. “It’s been going up gradually,” he said, noting that in 2004, 29 children died, the figure increased to 68 in 2005, and reached a high of 81 last year.
He said that the majority of children who died on the spot in road accidents are under the age of 10, “because the bodies just can’t absorb the impact”. Of the injured children, more than a third were pedestrians and half of those injured were in cars.
Noting that most of the injured children did not wear a seatbelt, the surgeon pointed to the need for laws to enforce the use of restraining seats for children. “It is very important for all children to wear a seatbelt even in the back of the car,” he said. “Children need to be restrained in a car seat or a booster seat, and we want laws passed to ensure that all children under the age of two be in a car seat and all children under the age of eight be in a booster seat,” he added.
In the meantime, he commended the efforts of the Road Safety Unit, Jamaica Constabulary Force and corporate sponsors such as Scotia Bank, which have been pushing road safety messages in schools.

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