Hospital workers face a torrent of vomit and abuse many weekends, and a spike in injury claims follows big drinking events in Dunedin, like today's Hyde Street Party.
It's not just the celebrated, or infamous, Hyde St event in Dunedin that seems to cause a spike in ACC claims among some young adults.
ACC data the Helen Clark Foundation examined showed spikes in many non-sport injury claims for people aged 18-22 soon after St Patrick's Day and the university city's former Agnew St party.
And it's not just a Dunedin problem, Australasian College for Emergency Medicine president Dr John Bonning says.
"There is absolutely a very clear spike in the 18-25s on crate day across the weekend in all EDs around the country."
The booze-up on the first Saturday of December celebrates the consumption of beer from crates, which generally contain a dozen 745ml bottles.
Rampant drunkenness combined with lower staffing levels piled huge demands on hospital workers even on many other weekends, Bonning said.
He said some data collection was still deficient, but it was clear inebriated people gobbled up resources needed for the elderly, for children and for crash victims.
At times of peak national drunkenness, one quarter of all patients in emergency departments could be intoxicated, Bonning said.
"They're abusive and they're vomiting all over us in the rooms. They're harming themselves but they're harming other people too."
Bonning said drunk patients often had obnoxious hangers-on who further aggravated staff and patients.
He said the emergency medicine college wasn't advocating for abstinence, but for some self-control.
"We're for rational, reasonable use. Don't get behind the wheel, get in fights or fall over."
Emerita Professor Jennie Connor, a public health physician, said the recent "code black" Dunedin Hospital crisis showed the pressure some emergency departments faced.
The hospital in late March called on the public to avoid the emergency department if possible as a critical bed shortage loomed.
"They couldn't deal with any more incoming patients. It's a very unusual thing. Our health services, for lots of reasons, are overloaded. The service is overloaded and broken."
Connor said drunk people arriving at hospital often had unexpected injuries requiring urgent treatment.
When intoxicated people overwhelmed emergency departments, other patients could miss out.
"If you take the alcohol away, the whole health system would work better."
She said New Zealand often underestimated the damage alcohol abuse was doing not just to individual health, but the public health system.
"So when the hospital's full, we say 'Oh, we need a new hospital'. We just can't go on doing it."
She said alcohol-related harm could be reduced with better regulation of booze companies and controlling alcohol price, availability and marketing.
"There are places that are swamped with alcohol outlets and others that don't have any - usually expensive suburbs."
Connor, based in Dunedin, said she'd prefer if the Hyde St party never went ahead.
"The university has chosen over the past 10 years not to shut these events down."
She said history showed liquor-soaked events like the former Undie 500 car rally could be cancelled and soon largely forgotten about.
"A few years later, nobody knows about it," Connor said.
"The university has a lot of control and in my view they haven't exercised the control in a responsible way."
But the university said it took pastoral care of its students extremely seriously.
"Parties historically held in Dunedin on St Patrick's Day and in Hyde and Agnew streets are not University of Otago events," a university spokeswoman said.
Last year's Hyde St party was canned because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The university said because of limited access to Agnew St by emergency services, this year's party on that street was cancelled.
She said the university, the student's association and emergency services met earlier this year to discuss both street parties.
"All stakeholders agreed to help support an event on Hyde St this year so it goes ahead in a managed way."
The Helen Clark Foundation collated claims from doctors' visits, physiotherapists and hospital admissions.
The ACC data excluded workplace accidents, sports accidents and existing treatment claims.
The data covered the years 2017, 2018 and 2019.
It appeared to show an upward trend in claims at the start of the university year, but that was less pronounced than the St Patrick's and big street party spikes.
Over these periods, there were increases of up to 60 claims when compared with the average weekend patterns over the whole year.
In 2017 the three events each had an average of 20 additional claims but that number surged in subsequent years.
The foundation said the year before last, 150 more claims were observed over the three social events just in Dunedin.
"In 2019, alcohol-focused social events potentially caused ACC $150,000 of additional costs in Dunedin city for clients aged 18 to 22 alone," the foundation added.
Meanwhile, police said about 20 staff would patrol around Hyde St on foot to ensure all partygoers have a safe and enjoyable day.
"The alcohol impairment team will also be conducting checkpoints and breath testing in the North Dunedin area," a police spokeswoman added.
"Everyone is reminded to ensure they have a sober driver, and not to drink to excess and take advantage of the water and food available."