Drunks make up 20 per cent of emergency room patients

Alcohol is involved in 21 per cent of all Auckland City Hospital Adult Emergency Department presentations, a new study has found. Photo / File
Alcohol is involved in 21 per cent of all Auckland City Hospital Adult Emergency Department presentations, a new study has found. Photo / File

More than 20 per cent of injured patients in Auckland City Hospital are affected by alcohol a new study has found.

And the results have disturbed researchers who say it proves the harmful effect alcohol has on the community.

The study, which looked at three periods in 2015 and 2016, involved 500 patients at the hospital's adult emergency department (ED).

"This is clearly disturbing evidence of the harmful effect that alcohol is having on our health system and our communities," said Dr Bridget Kool, senior lecturer in Epidemiology and Biostatistics at the University of Auckland.

"These data confirm the association between alcohol consumption and the often badly injured people we see in EDs."

Twenty-one per cent of acutely injured patients at the department reported consuming alcohol in the six hours before their injury. The median amount of alcohol consumed was 6.4 standard drinks.

Alcohol played a much a greater role in violent encounters: 69 per cent of patients who had been intentionally injured by another person had been drinking in the six hours before their injury.

The effects of dealing with drunk, non-compliant patients will be addressed by Professor Michael Ardagh ONZM, of the Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department, today at the Annual Scientific Meeting of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) at the Millennium Hotel in Queenstown.

"Managing non-compliant patients can raise very complicated ethical and legal questions," Ardagh said. "These pathways provide a framework for medical staff to work from, so that the decisions they make are rational and in the best interests of all concerned."

The results come just 24 hours after another shocking report, which revealed Aucklanders aged between 60 and 64 were 107 per cent more likely to be hospitalised for alcohol-related harm than people in any other part of the country.

The rates of hospitalisation of people in that age bracket is 144 per 100,000 in the region, compared to 69 per 100,000 in the rest of the country.

The figures were released by the Executive Planning Group, which oversees the implementation of Auckland's Action on Alcohol Plan.

The 2015 snapshot also found that 45-49 year olds in the region were 33 per cent more likely to be hospitalised with a condition that had resulted directly from the consumption of alcohol (139 per 100,000 compared to 105 per 100,000 in the rest of the country).

Overall, Aucklanders were 7 per cent more likely to be hospitalised with alcohol-related harm than people elsewhere in the country.

Rates of late-night assaults, 75 per cent of which are thought to be alcohol-related, were also elevated in Auckland.

Alcohol-involved crashes was the only indicator that had a lower rate.

- NZ Herald

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