herald

Wednesday 19 December 2018

Binge-drinkers and violence victims are clogging up hospitals

Alcohol leads to accidents. Stock Image
Alcohol leads to accidents. Stock Image

Binge-drinkers and the victims of booze-fuelled viol- ence and accidents are clogging up emergency departments at weekends, a study has shown.

The first research to reveal the scale of the burden on the HSE showed that nearly one third of patients attending EDs on Saturday night and Sunday morning were there because of alcohol.

The youngest patient injured by someone who had too much to drink was only 11 months.

Ambulance

More than half the patients who had been drinking were taken to hospital by ambulance.

The research, led by Galway University Hospital Emergency Department, showed that a high proportion of patients left before being seen by a doctor.

Those who had been drinking were 50pc more likely to be taken to hospital by ambulance.

Alcohol-affected patients were more likely to be men and more likely to attend early on Sunday morning.

In all, more than 3,100 patients attending EDs over four specified six-hour periods were studied.

The oldest alcohol-related patient was 85.

Many suffered direct injuries or accidents after being involved in road accidents, near-drownings, burns, poisonings and falls.

The proportion of alcohol-related patients who were admitted to a ward was 17.5pc compared with 26.5pc of people who were in the ED for normal emergency care.

The survey included children's hospitals, and 10 of the alcohol-related patients were young teenagers.

"We know alcohol is a problem in emergency departments at certain times, but we need to know more about this to work out what needs to be done," said University Hospital Galway emergency consultant Dr Brian McNicholl.

"We confirmed that the people coming to us with alcohol-related presentations are more likely to be male, arrive by ambulance, leave without being seen by a doctor and leave against medical advice.

"In our study, the alcohol- related people were four times more likely to come by ambulance."

The Government's proposed law to curb alcohol abuse and outlaw cheap booze is still going through the Oireachtas despite promises to fast-track it.

The report's findings were published in the medical magazine BMJ Open.

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