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1 in 8 Emergency Department presentations related to alcohol

Melbourne, Victoria, Tuesday 20 December 2016


One in eight Emergency Department presentations related to alcohol

The latest snapshot survey of alcohol-related presentations to emergency departments (EDs) in Australia and New Zealand has shown once again that alcohol continues to impact on staff, patients and health systems in both countries.

In Australia the survey revealed that one out of eight patients were there as a result of the harmful use of alcohol.

“We continue to see our already over-stretched EDs being placed under terrible strain by individuals who drink far too much,” said Associate Professor Diana Egerton-Warburton, study author and lead of ACEM’s Alcohol Harm in the ED project. “Emergency doctors and nurses are sick and tired of having to deal with drunks who take up valuable resources and sometimes abuse or even physically attack staff, so if you’re going to drink, do it responsibly because we don’t want to see you in the ED this holiday season!”

“This survey was our biggest yet” says research lead Professor Drew Richardson. “In over 130 hospitals across Australia and NZ we can see alcohol is still seriously affecting patients and resources. Some hospitals had up to 24 alcohol affected patients and in two smaller hospitals, every single patient was there because of alcohol.”

“While this is a very small improvement from our last survey, which had one in seven patients in Australian EDs due to alcohol harm, we still have a long way to go to reduce irresponsible drinking in Australia.”

Professor Anthony Lawler, ACEM President, said that alcohol harm was a complex public health issue, but that ways to reduce it were clearly understood.

“Examples from overseas – as well as the considerable research that ACEM and other organisations have done in Australia and New Zealand – indicate that there are a range of measures that can be pursued to curb the level of harm caused by excessive drinking,” Professor Lawler said. “These include reducing the availability of alcohol, increasing the price through taxation, and looking at its promotion and advertising, especially directed at young people through sport.”

There had been a considerable reduction in the levels of violent assault in New South Wales after policy-makers addressed only one of these criteria, Professor Lawler noted.

“How much more suffering could be avoided if states and territories made moderate, sensible changes to the cost of alcohol and its currently extremely high level of advertising?”

Associate Professor Diana Egerton-Warburton says “Australia needs to follow NZ’s lead and mandate the collection of data on alcohol-related harm in EDs, which will allow a much better idea of the scale of the problem. It then needs to be followed up with reducing availability and increasing price.”

- ENDS -

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