One in five emergency cases booze-related

The Southland Hospital's emergency department is inundated with people who have alcohol-related illnesses and trauma, figures show.

As many Southlanders begin to drink their way through the festive season, a survey of 14 New Zealand emergency departments, including Southland Hospital, has found one in five patients had illness or injury directly related to excessive drinking.

The survey was conducted on Saturday, December 14, at 2am, and provides the first national glimpse at the number of alcohol-related presentations in hospital emergency rooms.

Southland Hospital emergency department clinical leader Adam McLean said numbers would have been higher if the survey was done just one hour later.

"It is people coming in semi-conscious with alcohol-related health issues, and not just pub trauma injuries, it includes some forms of spousal and child abuse which are harder to quantify," he said.

Dr McLean said some cases included traumas like fractures, facial injuries and head injuries, but other cases were more severe like perforated stomach ulcers and acute pancreatitis.

The national snapshot survey was conducted by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine and included 92 Australian emergency departments.

In Australia, one in seven presentations were alcohol related.

College president Dr Anthony Cross said he was keen for more discussions around the damage caused by excessive alcohol consumption.

"We all know excessive consumption of alcohol can cause major harm but it's becoming clearer just how big the problem is," Dr Cross said.

"Drinking to the point that you end up in an emergency department happens regularly, but it shouldn't be seen as a social norm; it is not just being a bit of a larrikin, it's stupidity."

Southland Hospital emergency department data from 12 months ago reveals 70 per cent of presentations in the 24 hours from December 31 to January 1 were from alcohol-related illnesses or injury.

During the entire Christmas-New Year period, from December 24 last year to January 2, up to 15 per cent of all presentations to Southland Hospital may have been alcohol-related, with medics seeing about 1000 patients in total, Dr McLean said.

But that figure was likely to be underestimated as the hospital did not routinely record alcohol as a cause or factor for admission, he said.



Drink in moderation.

Set yourself a limit.

Start with water and then alternate non-alcoholic drinks with alcoholic beverages.

If travelling, designate a sober driver.

The Southland Times