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  • Drunks clogging up hospital system

    Author: AAP

Emergency clinicians say they are sick of drunks who take up emergency beds, threaten staff and compromise patient care.

Emergency doctors have had enough of drunks clogging up their hospital beds, threatening staff and compromising the care of other patients.

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A snapshot of 100 emergency departments in Australia and New Zealand at 2am last Saturday found one in eight were there because of booze.

However, in some hotspots the ratio was one in two.

The results would have been even worse if the weather hadn't kept people at home, says emergency physician Diana Egerton-Warburton, lead researcher of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine study.


Medical Officer- Rehabilitation
St Vincent's Private Hospital Northside
Human Resources Advisor
St Vincent's Hospital
Registered Nurse/Clinical Nurse (Accident and Emergency Department)
SA Health, Flinders & Upper North Local Health Network

"On the night of our snapshot there were bad thunderstorms and rain over the whole of the eastern seaboard," she says.

"If it had been a hot December night we would have seen a lot more."

Dr Egerton-Warburton says physicians are bracing themselves for another wild festive season.

"There are a lot of key dates coming up that are absolute standouts on the alcohol harm calendar," she says.

"Christmas, New Year's Eve and Australia Day.

"It is the holiday season and we don't want people getting drunk and ending up in the ED."

Emergency physicians are sick of dealing with aggressive and drunk patients, she says.

"Frankly at times it's more like working in a nightclub," she said.

"We had a drunk man knock a doctor unconscious because he wanted a sandwich.

"We've got people punching pregnant nurses in the stomach.

"And equally worryingly, we have patients' care disrupted by drunk people."

Nine out of 10 emergency clinicians regularly feel unsafe in their workplace, she says.

A separate recent survey of 2000 clinicians by the college revealed emergency staff reported being hit, scratched, spat on, bitten and threatened with violence.

Dr Anthony Cross, president of the college, says the college is calling for urgent action from federal, state and local governments to stem the tide of alcohol harm.

It wants to see the introduction of a national 3am last drinks rule and a 10pm cut off for takeaway alcohol sales.

"Research and the Sydney CBD changes clearly demonstrated this works, by reducing serious assaults by 30 per cent," he says.

The college also wants mandatory collection of data on alcohol-related hospital presentations across Australia to get an idea of the size of the problem.

And it wants everyone who presents to emergency for alcohol harm to be offered a brief intervention and referred on to treatment if necessary.

* 98 per cent had suffered verbal aggression from drunk patients
* 92 per cent had experienced violence or physical threats from drunk patients
* 88 per cent said the care of other patients was negatively affected by drunk patients



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