Surgeons call for 3am last drinks in Canberra

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SURGEONS and emergency department doctors have put their support behind the ACT Government’s proposal to stop serving alcohol after 3am in the nation’s capital.

Royal Australasian College of Surgeons (RACS) ACT Trauma Chair Dr Ailene Fitzgerald, and Fellow of the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine (ACEM) and former director of the Canberra Hospital emergency department Dr Michael Hall say alcohol-related ambulance and emergency department (ED) presentations have been on the rise over the past five years.

“In 2011 there were around six ambulance attendances to licensed premises each month, compared with eleven per month in the first quarter of this year,” Ailene said.

“Data from three snapshot surveys of alcohol-related presentations conducted by ACEM reveals the alcohol burden in ACT EDs.”

“The first survey, conducted on 14 December 2013 at 2am, showed one in ten patients in ACT EDs were there because of alcohol,” Michael said.

“A repeat survey on 6 December 2014 at 2am showed that nearly one in every five patients were there because of alcohol, while a snapshot survey on Australia Day 2016 revealed that one in eightpresentations were alcohol-related.”

“Alcohol-related harm is by definition completely preventable, yet our research shows it continues to make up a significant proportion of the ED workload in the ACT.”

Both Dr Hall and Dr Fitzgerald say a reduction in trading hours is a sensible way to prevent alcohol-related harm.

“One of the worst things I will ever have to do in my job is to tell a young person’s parents that their child has been seriously injured or killed because they’ve had too much alcohol. It’s tragic, and it’s preventable,” Ailene said.

“We know that around a third of assaults occur after 3am in Civic. There is a large body of evidence that indicates restricting the availability of alcohol will reduce harms in the ACT, as shown in Sydney and Newcastle.

“This is just one element of a wider cultural problem, but 3am closing times are entirely reasonable and will reduce the burden alcohol places on our emergency departments and health services more broadly.”

[Photo by Quinn Dombrowski, attribution licence]

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