Crate Day causes drunken flood of people at Waikato Hospital ED
One of the country's busiest hospitals was swamped with drunks on Saturday night, thanks to Crate Day.
Staff at Waikato Hospital's emergency department were fuming over the "loud, rude and demanding" antics of floods of drunken young people.
They absorbed staff resources leaving other patients waiting 11 to 12 hours to be seen, Waikato Hospital emergency doctor John Bonning said.
He said it was a "perfect storm" of pediatric trauma, sick elderly people and people high on alcohol and drugs.
"It was a really difficult weekend - worst shift ever was mentioned."
"There were long, long waits because of the influx of intoxicated people - they were across all ages, but there were a lot of young people who were dangerously intoxicated, to the point where there were concerns they could choke on their own vomit.
"We aim to get 95 percent of our patients assessed, treated, admitted or discharged from ED within six hours, but we couldn't do this at the weekend.
Bonning said the surge started around 10pm on Saturday. It peaked at 2am, and even by 8am on Sunday, there were people still waiting to be seen by a doctor.
"There were a lot of 16- to 23-year-olds represented. Most were purely intoxicated and too drunk to look after themselves in the community. There were also a number injured as a result of being intoxicated.
"They were loud, rude and demanding," Bonning said.
In one case, a man in his 30s had fallen over while drunk and sprained his ankle, said Bonning, but he acted like his leg had been amputated.
"He was demanding immediate care. When people have injured themselves because of of their own stupidity and demand that ... how dare they?"
Staff who should have been treating children - like the 12 or 13 year old who fell off a farm bike and was injured - were instead having to deal with drunken louts.
"There was a lot of pediatric trauma. There was also a blip in mental health, where people had been drinking and overdosed on drugs."
"We had five resuscitation rooms running with a continuous flow of intoxicated people, and even bringing in staff to work overtime, we were struggling to cope.
"I know that Crate Day started as a radio station publicity stunt, but encouraging binge-drinking like this is incredibly irresponsible.
"Crate Day is not a bit of fun to be celebrated. It's encouraging people to binge drink an entire crate of beer, which is incredibly harmful to their health. If people could see what I see in my emergency department at 2am in the morning, they wouldn't be so keen to take part.
"Studies show that ED overcrowding is associated with significantly increased mortality and length of stay in hospital. Recent Auckland University research showed that lives are saved by getting people out of ED in a timely manner."
A mixture of patients were being brought in by ambulance and being driven in.
He said bars should be looking at closing an hour earlier or implementing a one-way door policy, which could help reduce intoxication.
"Bringing closing times back an hour towards midnight results in a 20 percent reduction in presentations at ED."
But John Lawrenson of Lawrenson Group said it was one of the quietest nights of the year in the city.
He said reducing closing times and implementing a one-way door policy would only push people to drink in other places.
"We are trying to create a controlled drinking area in one place in town so that people in other areas are not disturbed.
"It's not going to decrease the problem but lead to more parties at private residences – closing town will only increase the problem."
He said Saturday night's chaos at ED was a result of people drinking in "unsafe and unmonitored environments".
Bonning urged those celebrating over Christmas to consume alcohol responsibly.
"Your behaviour if you drink too much not only harms yourself, but can also harm others."
Hamilton police confirmed there was substantial disorder as a result of Crate Day drinking events.