THE COSTS OF TREATING NON-FATAL GUNSHOT WOUNDS – HAVING THE CONVERSATION


How do you begin a difficult conversation with your client especially when it comes to matters of violence and other factors that generally scare us? The short answer is that you need to start the conversation, while being careful not to frighten your clients into doing nothing.


Take for example the fact that, an average of 20 people are killed in gun-related incidents each day in South Africa and billions of Rands are spent every year in public hospitals to treat patients who suffer from gunshot wounds, according to a study published by the South African Medical Journal. Similarly, a global study called ‘Gun Violence, Disability and Recovery’ found that between 16 - 18 people survive a gun-shot incident per day in South Africa.

While it is never pleasant to think about these types of situations, gun related crimes are a reality and it is imperative that South Africans ensure they can afford the necessary costs to recover from a non-fatal gunshot wound.

When it comes to gun violence, homicide generally receives most of the attention. We seem to forget is that the majority of people who are shot, survive. As a result, the post-traumatic impact, the long road to recovery and the associated costs are often overlooked when it comes to gunshot survivors.

It costs approximately R25 000 per patient to treat a single gunshot wound at a public hospital. This cost can go as high as R700 000 per patient, depending on the degree of treatment that is required.

As a result, it is important for everyone to have appropriate insurance cover as gunshot wounds are a major contributor to spinal cord injuries and can have long term financial implications, especially for the uninsured.

The other implications associated with treating and recovering from gunshot wounds below:

  • Taking time off work, the average being 10 days, for hospital admission and, depending on the depth and location of the wound, the patient could still be booked off for a long time thereafter;
  • Re-admission because the treatment may be staggered;
  • Surgery costs, especially considering that some practitioners may charge more than the standard medical aid rate, so there could be a shortfall;
  • Rehabilitation, such as physiotherapy and/or occupational therapy;
  • Loss of quality of life or productivity;
  • Treatment for stress related disorders, such as counselling for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and its debilitating effects; and/or
  • Pain management, which could very well be long term.

When we think of gunshot wounds, it’s easier to think of just the open wound, and not consider the immense invisible, internal damage, associated with it.

People involved in threatening or violent incidents can suffer adverse reactions to these traumatic events, where they will then need the support of their family, friends, colleagues and perhaps even professional counselling. With the appropriate insurance cover in place, individuals can have the peace of mind that should they survive a gun-shot incident, they will be able to obtain the appropriate treatment and take the necessary time off to recover.

Some of the types of cover consumers should consider to ensure their finances are protected and they can recover in the unfortunate event of a gunshot wound include:

  • Income Protection, which will pay the patient their salary if they are booked off or unable to perform their usual occupation as a result of the gunshot wound;
  • Critical Illness Cover, to cover penetrating gunshot wounds, spinal cord injuries, paralysis, head trauma, etc.
  • Disability Cover, in the unfortunate event that the gunshot wound permanently disables them. This will also cover costs to adjust their lifestyle, such as making their home or car wheelchair friendly, as well as provide a source of income, depending on the terms and conditions of their policy.

By having the above types of cover in place, the survivor’s income and financial wellbeing will remain protected, which will greatly assist them along their road to recovery without the additional stress of financial worries. It is imperative that as a financial adviser, you take the initiative in being proactive about helping your clients to be prepared for life’s unforeseen realities.

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