Holiday drunks swamp hospital

By Michele McPherson, Ellen Irvine with APN News & Media

Tauranga Hospital's emergency department has been swamped by a holiday season rush, with 50 per cent more patients treated on New Year's Day than an average day - most of them suffering from the results of a drunken night.
Acting chief operating officer Neil McKelvie said 178 people were treated at the hospital's emergency department on January 1 - a slight increase on last year.
Earlier, on New Year's Eve, another 133 patients had been treated.
"On an average busy weekend day, we will normally see 120."
Of the increase in patient numbers, 70-80 per cent were treated for drug or alcohol-related complaints.
"It's usually because people have just gone over the score [drunk too much].
"We see a lot of alcohol-related injuries - people get into fights so they might have head injuries. The other thing we have often found is people come through the alcohol consumption and they wake up with an injury, maybe a dislocated shoulder or a twisted or broken ankle. They get themselves home and wake up with it, and we see them quite late on the first."
Mr McKelvie attributed the remainder of the increase to the rise in population as holidaymakers flocked to Tauranga and Mount Maunganui.
"People don't have a GP [in town] and they might be feeling a bit queasy, maybe a head spin."
While Auckland City Hospital was reporting an increase of patients because of the expense of going to an accident and medical centre, that was "not a factor" in Tauranga.
Mr McKelvie said the number of alcohol-related injuries impacted on other patients waiting for diagnostic tests such as CT scans or chest X-rays.
"It's the usual abuse of alcohol, people just going too far and having an injury.


"If people hadn't got absolutely smashed out of their heads and obliterated, ED would not have been so busy.
"It was what we anticipated, and was slightly higher than last year - every year we seem to go up. It's almost like a record-breaking day is always New Year's Day."
Mr McKelvie said staffing levels were "tight" due to staff leave, but the emergency department coped with the rush of patients "without any significant issues".
"It's a very difficult time for the ED staff because it can be frustrating for people because it [alcohol consumption] is something that can be controlled."
Despite the surge in patient numbers, Tauranga Hospital was not hit as bad as others in the upper North Island.
Auckland City Hospital's adults' emergency department had its busiest day ever on New Year's Day.
It received 201 patients, a rise of 14 per cent from January 1 last year.
The percentage increase was even greater at Waikato Hospital's emergency department, which had 173 patients on Saturday.
At Thames Hospital, the emergency department received 83 New Year's Day patients, up from 75 last year.
Dr Tim Parke, clinical director of Auckland City Hospital's adults' emergency department, said over the holiday period there had been unusually large numbers of patients suffering the effects of alcohol intoxication, assaults, falls and food poisoning.
The food poisoning was because of "people eating warm leftovers that have been left lying around for days".

- BAY OF PLENTY TIMES

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