Research — 24 January 2017

hospital-484848_1280TWICE as many alcohol-affected patients presented at Adelaide’s public hospital emergency departments on Australia Day last year than the daily average in January.

Last year’s Australia Day saw 22 people with alcohol-related problems turn up in emergency departments of metropolitan public hospitals, compared to a daily average of 11 in January 2016, SA Health figures show.

An Australasian College for Emergency Medicine survey also found more than one in ten people were in SA emergency departments due to alcohol-related problems on Australia Day 2016, compared to a national average of 15 per cent.

Only Victoria and Tasmania fared better than SA in the survey which was the largest of its kind undertaken in Australia and the first to investigate the relationship between alcohol harm and our national day.

Associate Professor Diana Egerton-Warburton, the clinical lead for ACEM’s Alcohol Harm program, said some of the factors contributing to excessive drinking were already well understood. These included extended trading hours, cheap prices and heavy promotion.

“That represents a huge and entirely unnecessary burden being placed on our already overstretched emergency departments,” she said.

“Clinicians are desperate for community action.

She called for a nationwide safe alcohol trading hours to save lives, saying for every additional late trading hour, ‘there’s a 20 per cent increase in serious assaults and injuries’.

A Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia spokeswoman warned of the impacts excessive alcohol can have on a person’s health and social life.

“The short and long-term effects of alcohol can have an impact on not just peoples’ health, but also work productivity, finances and relationships, and may result in legal problems,” she said.

“Currently more than a quarter of South Australians drink at risky levels, while disease, illness and injury linked with alcohol is estimated to contribute to 2.1 per cent of total deaths in Australia.

“Alcohol remains the most commonly consumed and misused drug.

“A number of actions within the Alcohol and Other Drug Strategy 2017-21 are aimed at addressing this through liquor licensing reforms, enhanced health interventions and community engagement in the planning and delivery of effective responses.”

The SA Strategic Plan sets a target to reduce risky drinking levels by 30 per cent by 2020.

EMERGENCY DEPARTMENT PRESENTATIONS TO ADELAIDE PUBLIC HOSPITALS

Total presentations on January 26, 2016: 1077

Alcohol-related presentations on January 26, 2016: 22

Average daily presentations for January 2016: 1059

Average daily alcohol-related presentations for January 2016: 11

State % of patients in ED due to alcohol at time of survey

ACT 12.7

NSW 14.2

NT 28.0

QLD 19.0

SA 11.2

TAS 9.5

VIC 10.9

WA 19.6

Source: Australasian College for Emergency Medicine

This piece was first published on ‘The Courier Mail’, January 23, 2017.

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