Biggest causes of injuries to children in South Africa are road accidents, burns, falling and dog bites.
Professor Sebastian Van As has been head of the Trauma Unit at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town, South Africa for 20 years. His unit treats close to 10,000 injuries in young children every year and this is increasing with road accidents topping the list.
An article recently published in the SA Medical Journal shows that 83% of children in cars are not wearing safety belts in South Africa. Even though it is illegal not to strap children in, the reason for this happening is ignorance, not malice. Of the children that are thrown from the car because of an accident, over half die on impact. And most of the survivors have brain damage.
“Over the Christmas period last year, we attended to 3 children from 3 different road traffic accidents and they are now the sole survivors in their families – everyone else died on the scene.”
Pedestrians are at huge risk too. Up until the age of 6, children are neuro-developmentally immature which means that they cannot assess dangers in the environment such as traffic and car speeds. Children should never be alone in traffic or walk unattended on the side of the road.
The Children’s Hospital Trust is currently raising funds to upgrade and expand the Emergency Centre at the Red Cross Children’s Hospital which was originally built 16 years ago.
The upgraded Trauma area will offer more space to deal with more than 1 child at a time. The resuscitation room for severe cases and the medical resuscitation room will be adjacent to one another which will allow for immediate collaboration on treatment involving all required physicians. X-rays and scans will also be right on the scene so that parents can always remain with their traumatised child.
As the Hospital is a teaching hospital for UCT, this upgrade will also allow more space to train over 100 students and over 50 registrars per year on the ideal care for children who have gone through a traumatic injury, thus passing on the knowledge throughout Africa.
Less spoken about is the impact of post-traumatic stress on little patients, and the Hospital views this as a key treatment in the holistic healing of injured children. The new facility will also offer a specific, private room for families and patients to engage with the Hospital’s dedicated Social Workers, offering ongoing treatment and care for the whole family.
Prof van As’ vision is to ensure that the Trauma Unit continues to deliver world-class, life-saving care for seriously injured children as admissions to the Emergency Centre and the severity of injuries continue to increase.
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