Wellington Hospital took a leaf out the NZ Police's book during New Years' Eve, busting out the breathalysers for people coming through the emergency department.

In a bid to keep intoxicated people from unnecessarily being in a clinical area, anyone who may have appeared to be drunk when accompanying patients was breath-tested and blocked from ED if the reading was above the legal drink-driving limit.

A hospital spokesman said the same levels used by police were employed on the night. People with breath readings between 250mcg and 400mcg were allowed in on a discretionary basis, while those above 400mcg were denied access, although some allowance was made for special cases.

"The idea is to prevent intoxicated people, not patients, but other intoxicated people, from being in a clinical area," the spokesman said.


It was just not appropriate for drunk people to be in ED unless they were being treated, he said.

Wellington Hospital emergency department specialist Paul Quigley told Fairfax the initiative was so successful the hospital was likely to do it again in the future.

From midnight to 8am on January 1, 46 people came to ED, most of whom were drunk, Fairfax reported.