Nicholas Jones is a New Zealand Herald political reporter.

'Lock-out' laws would stem violence in emergency departments, says doctor

Waikato Hospital's Dr John Bonning says the alcohol-fuelled violence in emergency departments is 'terrible'. Photo / File
Waikato Hospital's Dr John Bonning says the alcohol-fuelled violence in emergency departments is 'terrible'. Photo / File

"Terrible" alcohol-fuelled violence that requires police dogs and Tasers to deal with is an example of why stricter booze controls are needed, the director of Waikato Hospital's emergency department says.

Dr John Bonning has joined the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine in today calling for authorities to do more to address alcohol harm - such as the "lock out" measures in Sydney's Kings Cross.

"Last weekend, I was working with police and saw the kind of alcohol-fuelled violence that needed dogs and Tasers to calm down, it's terrible," Dr Bonning said.

There were still too many drunk patients clogging up ED departments, he said, in the worst instances physically and verbally abusing staff and other patients.

"We are not getting beaten up every day of our practicing lives, but there is certainly a lot of both physical and verbal abuse," Dr Bonning told the Herald.

"I have been kicked in the face and punched and jostled. Again, not every weekend. But in my career I have been both kicked and punched in the line of duty.

"It is interesting, often if the people are still around when they sober up they are apologetic ... and they claim lack of memory. It is just when you put yourself into a situation where you are not in control of your actions."

Dr Bonning said he realised the Government was wary of any measure that could be labelled "nanny state", but more needed to be done - including bringing back bar closing times closer to midnight, or introducing "lock out" laws, where no new patrons are allowed in after a certain time.

In NSW, two deaths from so-called "coward punches" in 2012 and 2013 led to new 1.30am lockouts and 3am last drinks laws across the Sydney CBD entertainment precinct.

The controversial measures have resulted in a decline in assaults, including a 40 per cent decline in assaults in Kings Cross since the lockout laws and a 20 per cent decline in the Sydney CBD.

Business owners have criticised the laws as going too far, driving revellers away from the once-famed nightclub area.

Dr Bonning said he was not advocating a return to the "6 o'clock swill".

"I'm just saying bring it back towards midnight. And also stopping the incredibly cheap alcohol being available on corner stores."

- NZ Herald

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