New research on alcohol-related injuries among patients presenting at Palmerston North Hospital

Friday 7 May 2010, 3:18PM


A recent study at Palmerston North Hospital has shown alcohol is having a significant impact on patient injuries, delegates at the Alcohol Advisory Council (ALAC) Conference were told today.

The theme of the conference is ‘Time for Action’, with a focus on working together to create sustainable changes in the way New Zealanders think about and use alcohol.
Martin Macmaster and Sharon Vera from the Public Health Service of MidCentral District Health Board (DHB) presented findings from How pissed are the Patients? Identifying the incidence of alcohol intoxication among injury patients at Palmerston North emergency department.

The Public Health staff along with Carrie Naylor-Williams, Service Manager of the Emergency Department, conducted the research to identify intoxicated injury patients over a 3-week period.
Carrie Naylor-Williams says the impact of alcohol on New Zealand emergency departments is currently poorly recognised.

“Even though we know alcohol is a large factor in the presentation of injury patients in hospital emergency departments, there’s mostly only anecdotal evidence to support this.
“We felt there was a need for hard data on this issue, to bring home the reality of how significant alcohol can be in causing injury. Common injuries linked to alcohol include harm caused by falls and fights.”

The research involved clinical staff in the Palmerston North Hospital emergency department assessing all patients 15 years old and over who were admitted because of an injury, to find out if they were intoxicated.

Sharon Vera says findings indicate that a relatively high proportion of injury cases were alcohol related.
“Altogether 22 percent of injury patients were found to be intoxicated, although this result may be a conservative measurement due to the study’s methodology.

“As expected, nights and weekends saw a much higher percentage of alcohol related injuries, with almost two thirds of patients assessed as intoxicated.

“The average age for all injury cases was 36 years old, whereas the average age for alcohol injury cases was much younger, at 23 years. Males and Maori were over represented in both groups.”

Sharon says MidCentral DHB is now working with other agencies in the area on possible intervention initiatives.
“This is the first research that provides evidence of the burden that intoxicated patients are currently having on Palmerston North hospital.

“Studies like this may assist the health system with allocating resources or developing strategies to address alcohol related harm”.


For further information or comment contact ALAC Senior Communications Advisor Lynne Walsh on 021 369 081 or Sharon Vera on 021 076 7713