Nurses Concerned About The Return Of Alcohol

The return of alcohol is a cause for celebration for many, but this is not the case for some nurses on duty. According to the World Health Organisation, 31% of South Africans aged 15 and above drink alcohol. This places South Africa in the global top 5 ranking of countries with heavy drinkers.


Mandla Shabangu said the Democratic Nursing Organisation of South Africa (DENOSA) welcomes the easing down of regulations, but is worried about the safety of nurses who will be looking after drunk patients.

“Before lockdown, nurses issues were not attended to, as far as safety was concerned. At the centre of cases assault, verbal abuse and at some stage rape, it was perpertrated to our members by people under the influence of alcohol.”

Shabangu wants the Department of Health to come up with strict measures to make sure all nurses are protected.

“At this stage our members are confronted by three enemies now:

  1. There are safety issues - They are scared for their lives and the potential assault in the workplace by relatives who will be coming with their people who have been injured or have been fighting due to the influence of alcohol.
  2. Mentally they are not ready to deal with this Covid that is affecting them. Now the additional stress is coming from the number of patients that are now gonna be flocking the trauma emergency units, where they’ve been exposed to this unsafe environment where the Department of Health has failed to protect them. 
  3. On top of their stresses, they are coming out of Covid themselves as healthcare workers, without any kind of support of trauma or counselling or whatsoever.”

The Southern African Policy Alliance is also worried about a possible increase in trauma cases. Maurice Smithers of the Policy Alliance said South Africa has a history of high alcohol related incidents. 

“High levels of car crashes, violence, violence against women and those problems haven’t gone away. The ban on alcohol put them into abeyance for a while. The fact is that unless we implement new regulations in the country going forward, those problems are going to recur.”

Smithers said the new level 2 regulations do try to control the sale of alcohol, because:

  1. Bottle stores stay open from 9-5 on Monday to Thursday - This limits the amount of alcohol people can buy daily basis
  2. Restaurants, bars, taverns now close at 10pm. - This is good because a lot of the alcohol related incidents happen at night and in the early hours of the morning that happens 
  3. Night clubs are still closed
  4. There is a limit on the number of people that can be in bars and restaurants

Smithers said the government has not taken more steps to make sure that alcohol related incidents don’t happen, especially on weekends. 

He said the Policy Alliance wants alcohol advertising to be banned, alcohol containers to be made smaller, IDs to be shown when buying alcohol and there should not be any special on alcohol, as this only encourages people to buy more. 

Smithers also wants the government to increase the legal age for drinking in order to reduce the number of people who drink nationwide. 

“Only 31% of people actually drink, so therefore it means the majority of people in South Africa are having to endure the problems that are caused by the harmful use of alcohol, and something must be done” he said. 


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