Alcohol plays major part in UHG’s casualty crisis

Almost one third of patients descending on emergency departments in the early hours of Sunday had taken alcohol and nearly two thirds of those were in an intoxicated state, according to the first study of its kind in Ireland by Galway medics and researchers.

The report found that 5.9% of people attending the 29 emergency departments (EDs) around the country had alcohol recorded in their notes. But on a Saturday night through to Sunday morning that jumped to 29%.

Of those who had alcohol noted, 63% were categorised by clinical staff as intoxicated, compared with over one fifth in a similarly inebriated state on Friday evening, dropping to 12% on Wednesday afternoon, and just under 4% on Monday morning.

Almost half had unintentional injuries, and over one in ten had intentional injuries caused by a third party who was affected by alcohol.

Only one patient of the 3,194 who attended the EDs was identified as having been referred to specialist alcohol services.

Led by emergency department staff in University Hospital Galway (UHG), the HSE Public Health Department in Galway and NUIG, the study found that that people arriving with alcohol related issues “were more likely to be male, arrive by ambulance, leave without being seen by a doctor, and leave against medical advice”, as author and UHG emergency department consultant Dr Brian McNicholl explained.

“We know alcohol is a problem in emergency departments at certain times but we need to know more about this to work out what needs to be done.”

Another author in the study, Dr Diarmuid O’Donovan, Director of Public Health in the HSE West and senior lecturer in social and preventive medicine at NUI Galway, said the burden of alcohol on the health system is substantial and expensive.

“We need to do more to prevent alcohol related harm, and to have better services for people who have alcohol problems so that people don’t end up in emergency departments and ambulances. In our study the alcohol related people were four times more likely to come by ambulance.”

See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.