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Emergency Departments Picking up the Pieces

Emergency Departments Picking up the Pieces

10 JUNE 2011

Emergency departments like other front line emergency staff are carrying the burden for the way we as a country drink, says the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC).

Research conducted at Wellington Hospital and published in the New Zealand Medical Journal today, looked at how drunks affect staff and other patients and found a ‘significant’ negative impact on the workload and safety of staff.

ALAC Chief Executive Officer Gerard Vaughan said the research results were likely to be replicated at other emergency departments round the country.

“The often unseen or unacknowledged burden alcohol abuse is placing on front line clinicians and overall health system is significant,” he said. “In our interactions with clinicians they have expressed enormous frustration at the burden and added stress alcohol is placing on their departments.

“Research has shown that drunks cost a lot more to treat, take more time and need more resources. This means other patients often have to wait for their treatment.

Mr Vaughan said ALAC was working with emergency department clinicians to help them get systems in place to identify those with drinking problems and intervene. “Early intervention is a recognised effective intervention and it can be as simple as asking two questions and making a referral to the Alcohol Drug Helpline.

“However, we can’t keep relying on front line emergency services to pick up the pieces and do all the work. We also need to address the wider social problem of the way we drink including getting our laws right to support a moderate drinking culture.”

ALAC wants to see an increase in the price of really cheap alcohol, restrictions on availability of alcohol through reduced hours, a reduction in blood alcohol levels for adult drivers, tighter controls around the promotion of alcohol, an increase in the purchase price for alcohol to 20 years and more controls around the supply of alcohol to young people.


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