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Alcohol fuels emergency dept disruption

Alcohol fuels emergency dept disruption
Photo: Alcohol fuels emergency dept disruption
Alcohol is having a huge impact on Australian emergency departments, according to new research.

One in eight people in Australasian emergency departments is there because of alcohol, says new research.

The sheer volume of alcohol-affected patients also means they are causing much more disruption than those on the drug ice, making staff and other people feel unsafe.

"A case was told to us of a man having a heart attack who was too afraid to tell the nurses he had chest pain," lead researcher Associate Professor Diana Egerton-Warburton told AAP.

"He was concerned he was going to arc up the (drunk) person in the cubicle next to him."

The Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) study monitored eight emergency departments across Australia and New Zealand - screening more than 9600 patients - over a week in December 2014.
The study found one in eight presentations during peak times was alcohol related. Over the whole week the number was one in 12.

The findings, released at the organisation's annual conference in Brisbane, has led the ACEM to call on governments to introduce firmer measures to limit the availability of alcohol.

They include laws relating to closing venues earlier, as introduced in NSW.

"We found the alcohol-affected were more likely to have the immediate life-threatening problems," Prof Egerton-Warburton said.

Previous research had estimated that overall for one case of ice-harm, there will be a dozen alcohol-related cases, she said.

One drunk person can disrupt an entire department.

"We have had cases of visibly pregnant women being threatened with being punched in the stomach.

"We have had doctors assaulted in their own emergency departments, ending up unconscious in their own resuscitation bay.

"I have been punched, kicked and spat on."

Limiting alcohol availability had been shown to reduce harm, she said.

"From an emergency clinician's point of view it translates to less of those phone calls at 1am to families to tell them their loved ones have horrific injuries or are dead."


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