Let’s start with a sobriety test in the Emergency Department – those who flunk must pick up the tab


Alf’s party colleague Tony Ryall is retiring from politics at this election, to take up employment in the private sector he said at the time he made his announcement.

His retirement opens the way for a new Minister of Health to be appointed and – ahem – this post is intended to remind The Boss of the talents of the Member for Eketahuna North.

Ryall said he was proud of his work as Health Minister, especially in the areas of elective surgery, faster cancer treatment, and preventive health care.

Fair enough. But Alf is focused on the emergency wards of our hospitals and their workloads.

He draws attention – for example – to a study published in the New Zealand Medical Journal which found horrendously drunk men and women placing a significant burden on emergency departments, especially on Saturday nights,

An account of the study, carried out by researchers from the University of Otago, Christchurch, and led by Professor of Emergency Medicine Michael Ardagh, was reported here.

The study looked at alcohol-related presentations at Christchurch Hospital ED over two weeks.

Of the 3619 patients screened, alcohol had clearly contributed to 182, or five per cent of presentations.

Alcohol-related admissions are estimated to be costing Canterbury DHB around $80 million a year.

Over half of these alcohol-affected patients (58 per cent) showed up on the weekend with 31 per cent appearing on a Saturday night. Males accounted for 64 per cent of these presentations, females 35 per cent. For both sexes, 16 to 25 year-olds, followed by 41 to 60 year olds made up the most common presentation age groups.

The main reasons for seeking alcohol-related medical attention were accidents, fighting or assaults (for young men) and alcohol poisoning. But women, especially in the under-25 age group, had a high incidence of attendance for self-harm.

The researchers reckons the relationship between alcohol consumption and self-harm in young females is alarming and raises the need for further research in this area.

Having to deal with pissheads, crackheads and other forms of low life is hard on the staff.

This is affirmed in another recent report.

Assaults and verbal abuse of frontline health staff is rising in Marlborough but the problem could be worse, with incidents being under-reported by staff, a Blenheim registered nurse says.

Drink and drugs, anxiety about their medical conditions and patients who react badly to medication are causes of aggressive behaviour.

Verbal abuse and physical assaults on Marlborough health board staff have risen from 31 in 2012-2013 to 37 in 2013-2014.

What to do?

First, give the ministerial job to Alf.

And Alf will introduce a policy based on ideas he has just gleaned in a report from The Daily Mail.

In Britain, Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt is saying drunks should be compelled to pick up the tab if they end up in A&E needing treatment after a night out.

He insisted people should be made to take responsibility for their actions, although he admitted there are practical difficulties in introducing a charge

Jeremy Hunt said he had ‘sympathy’ with those who think alcohol-fuelled yobs should be made to take responsibility for their actions.

And he said it was wrong that taxpayers should pick up the bill for their abusive behaviour.

His comments came after Liberal Democrat health minister Norman Lamb said drunks who abuse casualty staff should be fined £50.

He called for on-the-spot fines, starting with those who are abusive to medical staff and can make A&E feel like a ‘war zone’.

Inevitably, a bunch of namby-pamby experts have cast doubt on whether fines would be feasible – questioning how the money would be collected and whether people with mental health problems would have to pay.

Hunt agreed there were significant difficulties with the proposal and claimed the ‘real pressure’ on A&E is coming from Britain’s ageing population.

Even so:

There were nearly 60,000 assaults on NHS staff in 2011/12 and alcohol-related hospital admissions have now topped a million a year – a rise of 510,000 in a decade.

Alcohol costs the NHS £3.5billion a year, it has been estimated.

To hell with the namby-pamby objectors, therefore.

The points they raise are nothing more than challenges, and challenges are there to be overcome.

Alf will air his ideas when he settles down with his mates for a dram or three in the Eketahuna Club tonight.

They always provide good advice on what should be done to deal with booze problems.

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