Booze-fuelled assaults fuel record emergency hospital numbers

Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Alcohol-fuelled assaults are generating record numbers though the doors of Tauranga Hospital's Emergency Department.

Bay of Plenty health board clinical director of emergency medicine Derek Sage said the majority of extra patients could be attributed to drinking _ and the broken hands, facial bones and jaws that followed fights.

"It would be fair to say that we've seen several over the last 24 hours that are head and facial injuries related to drinking and getting into strife. Most people turn up and say they're the victim,'' he said.

On Wednesday, 147 patients - many out-of-towners - came through the doors, 11 more than on the same day last year.

"It's been running around about 140-something, which basically is running higher than we anticipated,'' Dr Sage said. "For us, 115 would be an average day normally, so nearly 150 for a weekday is pretty high.''

Dr Sage said some aggressive patients had been "marched out'' by hospital security but police had not been called and no staff had been physically assaulted.

He had rostered a fourth doctor on for New Year's Eve - the busiest night of the year.

Staff were also expecting an influx on January 1, as revellers sobered up and realised they were injured.

He said overcrowding would be an issue and there was a possibility that if the Emergency Department became "jammed up'', patients would be treated in a hospital ward.

"I would say that we could anticipate waiting anywhere between 4.5 to eight hours. Obviously, very sick people get seen sooner,'' he said.

Dr Sage said staff were also treating some minor ailments because people were saying they could not get in to see their doctor during the holidays.

However, some did little to help themselves, like washing wounds or taking pain killers before arriving at ED.

"They haven't even done the basics for themselves. There's a degree of helplessness about some people that turn up,'' he said.

Officials at Hawke's Bay Hospital said they too were seeing too many people going to the emergency department with minor complaints.

"Unless it is an emergency, people should go to one of the accident and medical centres open in Hastings and Napier over the holiday period,'' said chief operating officer Warrick Frater.

Hospital staff had been busy in the festive season, with 150 patients visiting the emergency department on Boxing Day and more than 130 on most other days during the holidays. The normal daily figure is 100-110 patients.


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