One in five patients who turn up in New Zealand hospital
emergency departments in the small hours of the morning are
there because of booze, a study has found.
On the eve of a major liquor law change, the "snapshot"
survey by the Australasian College for Emergency Services
found 18 per cent of emergency patients were "there as a
result of the harmful use of alcohol".
The survey covered 14 emergency departments, with the
"snapshot" taken at 2am last Saturday.
Emergency staff were fed-up with having to deal with
drunkenness, principal investigator Dr Diana
"Emergency physicians are sick and tired of dealing with the
'bloody idiots' who drink alcohol to excess and end up in the
ED. If you work in an ED with one in five patients affected
by alcohol, it's more like a pub than a hospital," she said.
"This is intolerable for staff and unfair on other patients."
The answer, though, could be the new Sale and Supply of
Alcohol Act, which came into force at midnight, bringing with
it tough measures intended to reduce alcohol harm.
Under the new rules, drunk people are not allowed to be in
bars, and staff are forbidden to serve anyone that is
intoxicated. Bars and bar owners can be fined up to $5000.
The act defines "intoxication" as when two or more of the
following are evident: appearance is affected, behaviour is
impaired, co-ordination is impaired, speech is impaired.
To help bar staff, police teamed up with Hospitality New
Zealand, Health Promotion Agency and the New Zealand
Institute of Licensing Inspectors to create a pocket sized
colour-co-ordinated card which can be used to assess
"Sober" patrons will have coherent, clear speech, normal tone
and volume and "may be talkative".
If a person is "influenced", staff should intervene.
According to the card, a person under the influence will be
"overly talkative, opinionated and interrupts, may stumble
over words" and occasionally stagger.
Once a patron hits the "intoxicated" level, it's time to deny
and remove them.
Those people will be slurring, have difficulty forming words,
be loud and repetitive, lose their train of thought and be
"nonsensical" or unintelligible.
They'll spill drinks, stumble, trip, weave, walk into objects
and be unable to stand or sit straight. Physically, they will
have bloodshot or glazed eyes, won't be able to focus, will
look tired or fall asleep and be "dishevelled".
- Anna Leask of the NZ Herald