The peak body for emergency medicine in Australia and New Zealand has released findings from an ongoing study to identify sources of harm arriving at hospitals that involve alcohol consumption.
Over a three month period earlier this year, one in 10 patients presented to the St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne emergency department after drinking alcohol. On weekends, this figure skyrocketed to one in four.
Presentations to St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne emergency department included injuries related to assaults, glassing, and violence resulting in soft tissue injury and fractures. Other attendances were related to acute intoxication leading to nausea and vomiting, unconsciousness, and alcohol-attributed mental health presentations.
The leading venues at which people had last been served drinks before presenting to St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne emergency department were: Crown Casino, the Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG), house music club Tramp Bar, the Arbory Bar and Eatery on the Yarra River, and live music venue Billboard on Russell Street.
The Driving Change project is a collaboration between the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) and nine participating hospitals in Melbourne, Geelong, Sydney, Canberra and Warrnambool and Deakin University, Central Queensland University, the University of New South Wales, Australian National University and Cardiff University (Wales). The project is funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council and St Vincent’s Health Australia. More details are on the Driving Change project website.
ACEM President Dr Simon Judkins said: “Emergency physicians are on the frontline and regularly witness the devastating effects of excessive alcohol consumption on individual health and wider communities, and often experience assaults or verbal and physical threats from drunk patients. That one in four patients in St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne emergency department on weekends are there because of alcohol shines a light on just how pervasive the harms from drinking are.
“All of this is incredibly confronting and really adds to the stress and burnout of an emergency medicine workforce already under pressure.
“We know that trading hours are part of the problem, with Victoria’s regulatory environment enabling some of the longest opening hours in Australia, with many venues selling alcohol past 1am in the morning, and entertainment complexes like Crown allowed to trade for 24 hours.”
ACEM Fellow Dr Andrew Walby, who works at St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne emergency department, said that “being located on the edge of the Melbourne CBD, the impact of alcohol on our patients and staff is significant every day of the week. As we head into the Christmas / New Year period, there is heightened expectation of the challenges we will face.”
ACEM Fellow Professor Diana Egerton-Warburton, who is the lead of ACEM’s Alcohol Harm in the ED Program, said: “Emergency departments are becoming like pubs. Our research shows that nine out of 10 emergency physicians have experienced alcohol-related violence. With the sheer volume of alcohol-related presentations to emergency departments, policy makers need to urgently address the issue of affordability and availability of alcohol.”
ACEM has long advocated for the implementation of specific measures to confront the growing problem of alcohol-related violence, including establishing an independent regulatory body for alcohol advertising, sponsorship and promotions, and increased regulation to protect young people and children from alcohol advertising.
Data was collected from the end of March to the middle of June 2018 from almost 10,000 presentations to St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne emergency department.
The top five venues where patients had their last drink were:
1. Crown Casino.
2. Tramp Bar, tied with the MCG.
3. Arbory Bar and Eatery, tied with Billboard.
Last month ACEM released data from Monash Health emergency departments, including Clayton, Casey and Dandenong Hospital emergency departments.
ACEM is the peak body for emergency medicine in Australia and New Zealand, responsible for training emergency physicians and advancement of professional standards. www.acem.org.au
ACEM supports the advocacy efforts of partner groups such as The Foundation for Alcohol Research and Education (FARE) and the Alcohol Policy Coalition, which call for liquor law reforms and to consider the wider health, social and economic impacts of alcohol harm.
ACEM Public Affairs Manager
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