Drunk patients account for almost a third of those seeking
emergency hospital treatment on Saturday nights - and many
will have been binge-drinking alcohol bought from an
off-licence, research shows.
Data gathered by two Otago University students at
Christchurch Hospital's emergency department shows the impact
of alcohol could be even higher than suggested by routinely
A previous study, which took a snapshot of 14 emergency
departments at 2am one Saturday last month, found one in five
patients was admitted due to harmful alcohol use.
But the students found almost one in three patients - 28.6
per cent - was admitted through alcohol use in the period
between 11pm on Saturday and 8am on Sunday.
They also found more than 80 per cent of alcohol-affected
patients had been binge-drinking, with 14 standard drinks the
median number taken.
Otago University summer scholarship students Rebecca Stewart
and Manidipa Das did the study between November 15 and
December 9 last year.
They found almost 7 per cent of alcohol-affected patients
were disruptive when dealing with hospital staff, which
included intimidating behaviour and verbal or physical abuse.
The students also found hospital staff were under-reporting
the extent of the alcohol problem, with staff failing to
record more than 40 per cent of alcohol-affected patients.
Otago University emergency medicine Professor Mike Ardagh,
who supervised the research, said the results had shown
under-reporting was "worse than we thought".
He said the data on where patients had bought alcohol, and
where they drank it, was useful to policy-makers.
The students found most alcohol-affected patients, 88 per
cent, had bought alcohol from an off-licence such as a
supermarket or bottle store.
Only 12 per cent had drunk solely at licensed venues such as
bars or pubs, while almost one in five, 19 per cent, had
drunk alcohol bought at both on- and off-licences -
suggesting "pre-loading" was commonplace.
Supermarket-bought wine and beer accounted for at least 20
per cent of all alcohol consumed, while liquor store-bought
RTD products accounted for 17 per cent.
Professor Ardagh said the results showed pre-loading was a
real phenomenon, especially among binge-drinking young men,
and supermarkets contributed to harmful drinking. "It shows
that none of these providers or suppliers can really wash
their hands of this problem."
The results did not surprise Dr John Bonning, clinical
director at Waikato Hospital's emergency department, who has
been calling for better data collection at EDs.
He said a lot of alcohol-related admissions for fights, falls
and car crashes went "under the radar".
"It's just so frustrating for us at the frontline when we
have so many sick elderly patients, and children, who need
ACC said it was estimated about 11 per cent of claims were
alcohol-related, but there was no accurate estimate of their
• 28.6 per cent of people seeking emergency hospital aid on
Saturday nights had been drinking alcohol
• 80 per cent of alcohol-affected patients had been
- NZ Herald