Drunk people and others behaving badly are an ongoing problem at Wairarapa Hospital's Emergency Department with disruptions to the hospital routine and staff being abused.

Interim director of Wairarapa Health Services, Jill Stringer, said the binge drinking culture prevalent in society had adverse impacts on hospital departments.

"Regrettably we see the result in our ED and theatres."

Ms Stringer said alcohol-fuelled patients could seriously affect the operation of the emergency department while taking up valuable resources.


She said patients under the influence could become loud and abusive, therefore taking the attention of staff away from other people whose needs are greater.

"Our staff are there to help patients and it is completely unacceptable that they should deal with abuse and violence from them.

"Their behaviour may require other ED staff to attend to them, disrupting the smooth running of the department.

"Alcohol can also mask other more serious issues, for example it may affect a person's perception of pain."

Ms Stringer said Wairarapa DHB had a zero tolerance to abuse, and "an excellent" working relationship with the police.

"Staff can call them to assist and investigate incidents as necessary, and their response time is always very swift."

She said orderlies were security trained and nursing staff had received training around challenging behaviour and non-violent crisis intervention.

This helped them prevent and manage aggressive incidents, which were documented and followed up by the Quality and Risk team.

Ms Stringer said it appeared there was a persistent problem in the community with binge drinking and over indulgence.

"As a community we need to work together to address this."

Clinical liaison of acute services at Wairarapa Hospital, Norman Gray, said some of the worst injuries to come through ED were alcohol related, like drunken assaults and car crashes.

Alcohol has had a "devastating impact" on patients and clinicians in New Zealand, according to the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM), who in 2014 carried out the largest survey of alcohol harm in Australasian EDs.

ACEM president Associate Professor Anthony Lawler said since the survey had been carried out there had been progress in some areas.

"But too many EDs in New Zealand and Australia are still suffering from the blight of alcohol. Since this work was done 18 months ago ACEM has completed further research ... and the data is clear: alcohol is still having a disproportionately severe impact on our EDs.

"We are seeing headway, but we're also seeing harm."