The role of alcohol in injuries presenting to St Vincent's Hospital Emergency Department and the associated short-term costs


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Embargo, 10:30am December 15, 2005

One-third of injured patients attending St Vincent's Hospital Emergency Department have consumed alcohol prior to incurring their injury and almost two-thirds of these patients have been drinking at licensed premises.

Alcohol consumption is even more prevalent amongst patients presenting with injuries resulting from interpersonal violence, with almost two-thirds of these patients drinking alcohol prior to their injury.

The estimated immediate cost of treating these alcohol-related injuries and alcohol intoxication cases at St Vincent's Emergency Department is at least $1.4 million each year. If other costs associated with injury (e.g. inpatient costs) are included, however, the alcohol-related injury and intoxication costs incurred by St Vincent's Hospital may be as high as $3.2 million each year.

These are the key findings to emerge from the first Australian study to be conducted into the cost of emergency treatment for alcohol-related injury. The study was conducted by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research in conjunction with St Vincent's Hospital and funded by the Alcohol Education & Rehabilitation Foundation (AERF).

"The AERF provided $107,000 for this study to assess the veracity of anecdotal reports of the involvement of alcohol in emergency department presentations", said Daryl Smeaton, CEO of AERF.

"The results of the study confirm that alcohol related injuries are a major issue which the health care system and the broader community urgently need to address",Daryl Smeaton said.

The study found that just over one-quarter of all emergency department presentations at St Vincent's Hospital involve patients seeking treatment for an injury. Fourteen per cent of these attendances are for injuries resulting from interpersonal violence.

Data collected in patient interviews and from medical records reveal that a significant proportion of these injuries can be classified as alcohol-related. One-fifth of all injury cases and almost half of all assault cases involved a person who had been drinking at high-risk levels or who had a blood alcohol concentration above 0.10g/100ml.

Males were more likely to present with alcohol-related injuries than females and young people were more likely to present with alcohol-related injuries than older people. Injuries from intentional self-harm were also more likely to involve alcohol than those resulting from accidental events.

About AERF

The Foundation is an independent company that was set up in 2001 through a grant from the Australian Government. Its charter is to enhance the capacity of the alcohol and other drugs sector to address alcohol and other licit substance misuse and to promote responsible consumption of alcohol.

Further enquiries:

Dr Don Weatherburn (Director, BOCSAR): (02) 9231-9190 (w) or 0419 494 408.

A/Prof Gordian Fulde (Director, St Vincent's Hospital ED, Sydney): 0419 718 328

Daryl Smeaton (CEO, AERF): 0413 878081