Booze ban spotlights how NHI would treat symptom, not cause

A long time ago we were close to a young woman whose partner became physically abusive when he drank. One night after a drunken beating, while the fellow was sleeping our friend picked up a heavy transistor radio on her side table and smashed it with all her might into his face. He never abused her again.

Earlier this week, Discovery Health’s CEO Dr Ryan Noach said as a clinician he believes the temporary alcohol ban is a good thing. He argued evidence from post-Level Five lockdown shows booze-related trauma sucks up around a third of SA’s hospital capacity. And in this coronavirus war, every bed could be a lifesaver.

It’s hard to argue against such logic. But that data also shines a spotlight on another burning issue. The ANC’s Command Council is using Covid-19 to argue SA must prioritize a proposed National Health system. The booze data suggests, however, NHI is a blunt and expensive tool to attack the symptom – not cause.

Before blowing more of SA’s scarce resources enabling a dysfunctional system, the answer surely lies in tackling alcohol abusers. For instance, zero alcohol tolerance on driving. Arresting drunk and disorderly in public. “Transistor radio” justice on Gender Based Violence may be going a bit far. But publicly naming and shaming would be a good start. Even abusive drunks care about their reputations.

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I agree with all you say, well done and I hope a politician with some intelligence will read what you write.

Roy Glover.

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