Greater controls needed to protect against alcohol-fuelled harm

Thursday 6 December, 2018

New data reveals 1 in 10 people who present to emergency department have consumed alcohol products

The latest data showing one in four weekend visits to St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne’s Emergency Department come after alcohol products are consumed is proof more needs to be done to stop the detrimental impact of booze on our communities, the Australian Policy Coalition (APC) says.

Data released by the Australian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) this week shows one in 10 people who present to St Vincent’s Hospital Melbourne’s Emergency Department (ED) during the week do so after consuming alcoholic products. This figure increases dramatically to one in four on weekends.

ACEM has identified the leading venues at which people consumed alcohol before presenting at St Vincent’s Hospital’s ED with alcohol-related injuries or conditions.

APC spokesman Dr Mark Zirnsak said the alarming statistics were further evidence that policy makers needed to do more to better protect Victorians against the harms caused by businesses pushing alcohol products into the community.

“Ending your night in a hospital emergency department is not a great night out, and our hospitals should not be spending so much of their time and resources dealing with alcohol caused injuries and illnesses – things that could easily be avoided if alcohol businesses were better regulated,” Dr Zirnsak said.

The sale of alcohol kills nearly 6000 Australians from disease every year, including 1300 Victorians; causes eight different types of cancer; and results in more than 3200 people developing cancer every year.

Alcohol also fuels countless acts of violence, brawls, one punch hits, assaults and road accidents.

“Venues are clearly continuing to serve people who are intoxicated, which is leading to people needing emergency assistance at our hospitals.” Dr Zirnsak said.

“The more profits alcohol businesses make, the more Victorians are harmed. The owners of the alcohol businesses need to be held accountable for not taking their Responsible Service of Alcohol conditions seriously.”

Dr Zirnsak said Victoria could implement a number of policies to minimise the harmful impact caused by the unethical behaviour of alcohol businesses, including a safer venue initiative that would impose penalties on venues with a high number of violent incidents linked to them.

Under the violent venues scheme in New South Wales venues with a high number of recorded violent incidents are subject to strict conditions around serving alcohol and increased monitoring. Violent events at pubs and clubs have dropped by 90 percent over the past 10 years.