A drunk man who hurt his head falling down stairs and needed a helicopter to rescue him is among the patients in alcohol-related incidents putting a strain on resources.
Now a leading doctor is calling for better data collation at emergency departments throughout the country for alcohol-related admissions which he says are being grossly under-reported.
Dr John Bonning, clinical director at Waikato Hospital and a representative of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine, says the numbers of patients admitted because they were drunk or involved in alcohol-related incidents was being under-reported.
This was despite a recent snapshot survey of nearly 200 emergency departments in New Zealand and Australia showing that one in five patients were there because of alcohol.
"We are trying to come up with an electronic system that records whether alcohol is the reason for the presentation or they have hurt themselves or have been in a car crash because of alcohol, whether that person is intoxicated or not or they are the sober victim," said Dr Bonning.
"It's not to be judge, jury and executioner, it's just to make the public aware of the huge impact of excessive drinking on our society."
Dr Bonning said some very drunk patients intimidated children and elderly patients and were taking away resources needed for more deserving people.
"This morning in Waikato ED there were six patients who were there overnight purely because of intoxication, who were still there at 8am because they were still too drunk to be discharged safely," he said.
"Another man fell down some stairs after he had been drinking and he needed the Waikato Westpac Rescue Helicopter to get him to hospital - it's a massive cost and a huge burden on us and impacted on us to deliver good health care last night."
Alcohol was only identified as a factor if the patient was admitted for being intoxicated or was undergoing withdrawal, said Dr Bonning, despite the significant number of admissions that had alcohol as the underlying cause.