Gladstone Hospital.
Gladstone Hospital. Scott Sawyer

Gladstone hospital treats more than 300 for falls

GLADSTONE'S public hospital treated a staggering 328 fall injury patients in 12 months at a cost of more than $450,000.

And of those admissions, more than half were people under 65 years. In the 2013-14 financial year, 221 people - infants, children, young people and adults under 65 - were admitted for the often preventable accidents.

People aged over 65 accounted for 116 admissions.

The Queensland Department of Health data shows the average fall patient spent 1.4 days in the hospital at a cost of about $1000 a day or about $460,000 last financial year.

Queensland Falls Injury Prevention Collaborative chairman Paul Varghese said falls in the aged were the most concerning.

He said they were often preventable, could lead to long-term injuries or death and were a costly burden on the health system.

Associate Professor Varghese treats many older patients who have been left bedridden from simply tripping over.

"It's very frustrating because many of these falls should not happen," the Princess Alexandra Hospital geriatric medicine director said.

"As people age they become frailer, they can lose their balance and they may have some problems with cognitive function.

"Simple exercise programs such as tai chi can reduce the risk of falling significantly."

Musculoskeletal health expert Dr Geeske Peeters said taking part in specialist fall prevention clinics and speaking to general practitioners could lower the risk.

"A lot of falls end up in injuries that do not require hospital admissions," the University of Queensland School of Public Health academic said.

"They might have to see a GP or there may be costs if they need, for example, several days of at-home care.

"Research shows that there are a few ways to prevent falls that are promising, exercise interventions are promising, medication intervention may also help," she said.

"There are several ways to achieve a reduction in falls but there is no one way that will prevent falls - it's a combination of things.

"It's also up to the individuals - they have to recognise falls are a problem and want to do something about it."


Handy hints to avoid falls:

Keep paths free of moss and leaves and remove any obstacles such as gardening tools, hoses and small pots.

If you have a damaged public footpath near your home, take a photo and send it with a letter or email describing the location and type of hazard to your local council.

Move frequently used items to within easy reach to reduce the need for ladders.

Keep a sturdy, broad-based stepladder with handrails handy.

- Source: Queensland Department of Health.

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