Otago medical leaders sign for liquor reform

Some Otago medical leaders are among more than 300 doctors and nurses across the country who have signed a statement calling for changes to the liquor laws.

They are supporting the "5+ solution".

The "5+ solution" would involve raising alcohol prices and the purchase age; reducing alcohol accessibility, marketing and advertising; increasing measures to stop drink-driving, and improving access to treatment for heavy drinkers.

New Zealand president of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians, Dr Geoffrey Robinson, said this unprecedented stand by leading doctors and nurses was a reflection of the deep concern held about the heavy drinking culture that exists in New Zealand.

The review of the liquor laws by the New Zealand Law Commission provided a unique opportunity for fundamental change to the supply and sale of alcohol.

This was for the benefit of the country, Dr Robinson said.

The statement said alcohol was related to more than 60 medical conditions, and these resulted in more than 1000 deaths a year in New Zealand.

The sophisticated alcohol culture promised 20 years ago with the Sale of Liquor Act had turned out to be more of an "endemic heavy binge drinking culture".

This was causing widespread alcohol-related health and social problems.

Alcohol needed to be more effectively regulated to bring about change in the drinking culture in "exactly the same way that tobacco has been slowly brought under better control", the statement said.

Among those from Otago who signed the statement are New Zealand College of Mental Health Nurses president Heather Casey, the University of Otago's Dunedin School of Medicine dean Prof John Adams and health researchers Dr Jennie Connor, Assoc Prof Brian Cox and Prof Charlotte Paul; public health physicians Dr Marion Poore and Dr John Holmes, oncologist Assoc Prof David Perez, the Otago and Southland District Health Boards' regional chief nursing and midwifery officer Leanne Samuel, University of Otago head of general practice and rural health Prof Jim Reid, Dunedin Hospital's acting clinical leader (anaesthesia) Dr Paul Templer, paediatrician Prof Barry Taylor, and New Zealand Nurses Organisation chairwoman for the National Division of Infection Control Nurses, Jo Stodart.

elspeth.mclean@odt.co.nz

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