19 July 2019

15 per cent of adults in ED on a Saturday night are there due to alcohol, survey finds

| Lachlan Roberts
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Conditions attributed to alcohol consumption are putting pressure on our EDs. Photo: George Tsotsos.

New emergency department data exposes the scale of alcohol-based harm in the nation’s capital, the peak body for emergency medicine in Australia says.

The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) has released the findings from its research into the reasons why adults attended the emergency departments in ACT hospitals on Friday and Saturday nights.

As part of the ACEM’s Driving Change project, staff asked all adults who attended the Canberra and Calvary hospitals’ ED whether they drank alcohol before presenting, where they bought the alcohol and the location of their last drink.

According to the data collected over a three-month period earlier this year, about one in every seven patients at the EDs were there due to alcohol consumption – 15.8 per cent of patients at Calvary Public Hospital and 13.5 per cent at Canberra Hospital.

Staff at Calvary Hospital also asked patients whether they were there because of illicit drug use, which accounted for just one per cent of attendances.

Australasian College for Emergency Medicine president Simon Judkins said the data made it clear that Australia needed to undertake a cultural shift in its relationship with alcohol.

“Emergency physicians regularly manage the effects of excessive alcohol consumption on individual health, as well as assaults or verbal and physical threats from drunk patients,” he said. “It is stressful and confronting to see and have to manage this every weekend.

“It simply does not make sense that emergency departments around the nation are struggling with the impact of alcohol presentations on overcrowding and access block.

“Yet we are still waiting to see a national alcohol strategy developed as part of a promised federal whole-of-government drug strategy.”

The most commonly reported venues people visited before needing to go to an emergency department were concentrated in either Civic or Kingston, with Mooseheads, Mr Wolf, PJ O’Reilly’s, The Dock, Manuka Oval and Erindale Vikings Club topping the list.

Around half the people attending both emergency departments who had reported drinking alcohol said they had purchased alcohol from supermarkets and bottle shops.

The Driving Change project is led by Deakin University, partnered with Central Queensland University, the UNSW, ANU and Cardiff University, with funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

In addition to the two EDs in Canberra, hospitals in Melbourne, Geelong, Sydney and Warrnambool were also surveyed, with every one in four patients at Melbourne’s St Vincent’s ED on Friday and Saturday nights there due to alcohol consumption.

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Therefore the statistics show it is much more dangerous being sober!

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