Doctors urge no festive binge drinking

People are being urged to drink sensibly over the festive period, to avoid clogging up hospitals with unnecessary extra work.

That's the message from doctors, who say emergency departments are already over-burdened with an increase in patients over Christmas and New Year, as many people go to hospitals for help if their GP has closed down.

Just keeping an eye on general health, by eating healthily and taking medication regularly, will help problems from happening in the first place.

Health Waikato emergency departments have reported an increase in trauma cases, as well as alcohol and drug-related incidents, in previous years.

They say this has a knock-on effect with other patients needing non-urgent medical help.

Waikato Hospital emergency physician John Bonning said those people could avoid a long wait by planning better.

"Non-emergency cases are not a problem for us working in emergency; they are a problem for those non-urgent patients as they have to wait, sometimes many hours, before they are seen.

"If you come to the emergency department with a non-urgent and non-emergency condition, you will still get care; you will just have to wait for that care while we deal with more urgent cases. This can take many hours that would be better spent relaxing with loved ones during the holidays," he said.

Dr Bonning added it was important that people with acute medical problems did not hesitate to come to hospital. But those with ongoing chronic conditions such as high blood pressure, asthma, diabetes, or heart failure, should do their best to manage them by having a check up at their GP and repeat prescriptions filled to cover that period.

In December 2007, 4442 people were admitted to Waikato Hospital's emergency department, with January 2008 figures reaching 4559, well above the 2007/08 monthly average of 4404.

"Waikato Hospital emergency department is always well prepared for the holiday period, and it is all hands on deck for staff," said Dr Bonning.

"Part of this management plan is our team of clinical nurse specialists who are trained to manage low-acuity or more minor patients. If you come to emergency department with a minor problem, these are the people who will most likely treat you."

Dr Bonning and medical officer of health Felicity Dumble are Waikato District Health Board's voices of the "Emergency for Emergencies" radio campaign asking people to keep themselves well this summer.

"This includes drinking sensibly, never fighting or driving while intoxicated, taking your medication regularly, eating healthily and staying active," said Dr Bonning.


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