ACT News


Alcohol-fuelled violence on the rise: medical staff

Emergency specialists such as Drew Richardson see the aftermath of alcohol-fuelled violence all too often.

The Canberra Hospital's emergency department say they deal with the consequences of drunken assaults on a nightly basis.

His staff have been abused while trying to treat intoxicated patients, and are often required to separate friends and families of patients to prevent alcohol-related disputes re-igniting in the department.

He's treated young men who turn up with broken fists at 3am, who claim they were attacked while simply minding their own business.

''Apparently minding your own business at three o'clock in the morning is a very dangerous thing to do in Canberra,'' Professor Richardson said.

Anecdotally, Professor Richardson believes the problem has worsened in Canberra in his 15 years with the emergency department, coinciding with an increase in the total number of presentations.


Prime Minister Tony Abbott on Thursday called for tougher measures to stop unprovoked street attacks, and increased pressure on state governments to introduce tougher laws and licensing restrictions to prevent alcohol-fuelled violence.

Mr Abbott, speaking mainly of violence in Sydney, condemned what he called a ''rise of the disturbed individual'', telling Macquarie Radio cowardly offenders should be treated with appropriate severity.

''This is a vicious, horrible change, and I think that the police, the courts, the judges, ought to absolutely throw the book at people who perpetrate this kind of gratuitous, unprovoked violence,'' he said.

His comments come at a critical time in the ACT, with the territory government reviewing the effectiveness of tough liquor reforms it introduced in 2010.

Those reforms failed to reduce alcohol-related assaults in Civic - the ACT's largest nightclub district - but have helped lead to a territory-wide decrease in all alcohol-related offences, including less serious crimes such as public urination.

Professor Richardson said the worst types of assaults, which leave victims dead or brain damaged, were relatively rare in the ACT, compared to other areas he had worked.

But he said alcohol-related violence was still a significant problem in the jurisdiction.

''We're talking on a nightly basis, but particularly Friday to Sunday nights, and of course more than a few patients turn up looking the worse for wear on Sunday morning, with broken bits and can't remember exactly how it happened,'' he said.

Recent data released by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine suggested that alcohol-related harm accounted for at least one in seven patients attending emergency departments across Australia, with some experiencing as many as one in three.

''We're upset because it's preventable injury, something that just didn't need to happen,'' Professor Richardson said.

''We also have the issue of drunk people threatening staff. Bullying is just not acceptable in the modern emergency department.

''Drunkenness must never be an excuse to treat carers inappropriately.''


Comment are now closed