Injuries due to drugs, booze impact on hospital

A COMBINATION of alcohol and amphetamines has meant Gladstone Hospital's emergency department has had to make major changes to the way patients are dealt with.

Emergency doctor Matt Allen, who has worked in the department for some years, said the current transient nature of many residents and the fact many arrived at the hospital after consuming alcohol and amphetamines had made for a much less stable environment.

"These people are much harder to deal with than those who have just consumed too much alcohol, or who have smoked cannabis - they just tend to need to sleep it off," he said.

"But we are having to intubate and chemically restrain aggressive patients who have consumed amphetamines.

"And we are relying more and more on the help of our police to control them until we have them under some sedation."

Dr Allen said binge drinking was also a major problem with young people.

"We see them at a much lower age, in their early teens - they are far less tolerant of alcohol than adults."

He said ED staff were often seeing the result of bashings and regularly dealt with injured fists and heads - and he said glass injuries were quite common these days.

One of his major concerns is that the nights when the results of violence come through the ED doors has extended to virtually every day of the week, rather than the traditional Friday and Saturday nights.

"It's a reflection of the massive change in Gladstone society where we have a large number of shift workers who take days off at all times of the week," he said.

The hospital has had to extend the hours of some other health care workers because of the changes to people's habits, he said.

"But we are the ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. We are the people who have to deal with these issues - issues that really shouldn't happen.

"The question is how to change these people's habits."

New department head Augustus Kigotho said he was saddened by the recent issue of king hits and substance-induced violence.

"Being a doctor is just a label. I am just another husband, and father, and I have the same feeling as every other parent when I see people present at the ED with horrific injuries through violence," he said.

"I've cried many times when I've had to deal with tragedy."

He said education of adolescents about the dangers of substance abuse needs to start at home and continue through schools, and promotion of substances, including alcohol, needs to be regulated in an effort to reduce the danger.

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