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Summer Students detail alcohol’s impact on Emergency Department

Christchurch campus

Friday, 24 January 2014 1:25pm

Emergency sign

University of Otago, Christchurch (UOC), Summer Students will today present the results of their research projects – including two about alcohol’s impact on the Christchurch Hospital Emergency Department (ED).

Every year about 45 students take part in UOC’s Summer Studentship programme. Students work on specific projects with senior researchers for 10 weeks over the summer period.

This year two students worked with UOC emergency medicine Professor Mike Ardagh to gather up-to-date information on alcohol and the ED.

They found:

  • Alcohol contributed to almost a third of ED attendances during the Saturday 11pm – 8am Sunday shift.
  • More than 80% of patients in the alcohol-affected group had been ‘binging’.
  • The median number of drinks consumed was 14 standard drinks.
  • Eighty-eight per cent of alcohol-affected patients had consumed drinks from an off-licence.
  • Wine and beer bought from supermarkets accounted for 20% of all alcohol consumed before admission. Supermarkets were the source of 67% of all off-licence beer and wine.

The two students collected data between 15 November and 9 December 2013. Between them they spent two weeks at ED, 24/7.

Five per cent of admissions during this time (182 of 3619 people) attended with alcohol as a contributing factor.

Professor Ardagh says this detailed snapshot of the impact of alcohol on the workload of the Emergency Department is a very useful addition to our understanding.

It shows the impact is even greater than was suggested by data routinely recorded by medical and nursing staff and it paints a picture of the drinking patterns leading to an Emergency Department presentation.

Data of this sort should inform the development of local alcohol policies.

For further information, contact

Kim Thomas
Senior Communications Advisor
Tel 64 27 222 6016 to arrange an interview

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