Statistics for accidents and assaults point to steady increase

By Mirudhula Thambiah

Compared with other years, road accidents seemed to have hit an all-time high in 2010. Every day, the National Hospital treats 250 to 300 victims of various types of injuries, of which 75 to 100 patients are admitted to the hospital due to the severity of injuries.

Speaking to the Sunday Times, Director- National Hospital of Sri Lanka (NHSL), Dr Hector Weerasinghe said, injuries are due to various reasons such as road accidents, workplace accidents, industrial accidents, agricultural accidents, sports injuries and injuries caused by violence.

Among the 250 to 300 victims of accidents seeking treatment at the NHSL, about 25% are victims of road accidents, 25% due to domestic accidents, while industrial and sports injuries are 5 to 6%, and injuries due to violence is 5 to 8%.

322 victims of accidents sought treatment on December 31, 2010 at the NHSL for injuries caused by road accidents. “I recently read in the newspapers a statement by the Inspector General of Police, that a large number of accident victims are either temporarily or permanently disabled, while a large amount of money is spent by the Ministry of Health to treat them,” said Dr Weerasinghe.

According to the statistics of the NHSL for 2010, injuries by firecrackers was low compared with the previous years. “When asked how they got injured, the usual story is that the cracker exploded in their hands while lighting it or, the lighted cracker when thrown in panic, inadvertently land and explode among onlookers, causing injuries. Also, skyrockets, like misguided missiles, landing and exploding where they are least intended,” he said.

The director condemned such irresponsible ways of lighting firecrackers for fun. Public messages of care and caution in the handling of firecrackers during the festive season, seems to have had its desired effect, with a significant reduction in the number of injured revellers seeking treatment.

The Director of the NHSL said that injuries caused by violence increased during and after the festive season, since people under the influence of liquor, resorted to violence as a ‘means to an end’.

Dr. Weerasinghe explained that domestic injuries such as burn injuries mostly affect housewives, while operating cookers. Therefore, our advice to housewives and others is to keep windows and doors open while using cookers. Bottle-lamp accidents caused by the use of unsafe bottle lamps, is another cause of burn injuries pointed out by the director.

With the exception of injuries by firecrackers which saw a decrease in 2010, other accidents increased by about 10 to 15%. He also said that the NHSL has not done any estimate of the cost incurred by treating victims of accidents. He said it is a universal fact that most countries spend about 2% of the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) on treating accident injuries.

Injuries to occupants of vehicles involved in accidents could be significantly reduced if seat belts are worn as required by law. Dr. Weerasinghe also said that the Ministry of Health has established a new Neutron Trauma Centre to treat patients with head injuries. This centre funded by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, is to be ceremonially opened by the President very soon.

Director- Kalubowila Teaching Hospital, Dr. Anil Jayasinghe said 150 trauma patients are treated daily.
Most minor injuries are domestic injuries, while road accidents cause the worst injuries. He said that most road accidents take place during festive seasons, when injuries caused by crackers are less than injuries caused by road accidents.

“Accidents caused during the festive seasons in the nights are due to drunk-driving,” he said.

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