ACT News


Canberra's alcohol hotspots targeted as Calvary Hospital records booze intake of emergency department patients

Calvary Hospital is recording Canberra's alcohol hotspots and how much booze emergency patients are drinking in a groundbreaking trial aimed at curbing alcohol-fuelled violence.

It is hoped the three-year program at the hospital's emergency department will reveal the burden of the violence on the health sector and the venues causing the most harm.

FARE chief executive Michael Thorn said the Driving Change study was timely given assaults in Canberra's CBD are on the rise, which he largely attributed to alcohol. But the ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner called for a wider strategy to target cultural attitudes, not just liquor availability.

Every person admitted to the Calvary Hospital ED will be surveyed on how much alcohol they drank in recent hours, where they bought it from and whether they'd taken illicit drugs.

Emergency medicine specialist David Caldicott expected the venue recording to cause controversy, stating some licensed venues were less responsible with their service than others. He said the data would help ACT policing with violence prevention.

While people will not be tested on their alcohol intake, Mr Caldicott said most were honest with their doctors in the case of an emergency.


The study also aims to determine the level of harm caused by the patient's or someone else's drinking, if it's arising more from pubs or alcohol stores and whether the person should be directed to drug or alcohol support.

It is based on the 'Cardiff Model' of violence prevention first trialled in the UK, which lead to a significant drop in assault and injury in Cardiff. More than 80 per cent of the UK's emergency departments permanently implemented the reporting.

Mr Thorn said the study would target street violence in Canberra's city.

"But noting the licences venues doesn't get you to issues such as alcohol-fuelled domestic violence, which is largely down to liquor they bought from bottle shops, so we will also explore that," he said.

According to FARE, almost a quarter of family and domestic violence incidents attended by ACT police are related to alcohol.

Mr Thorn Australian hospitals were unable to record the true scale of alcohol-fuelled violence until now.

A Fairfax Media analysis of police data showed reported assaults in the ACT rose by almost 40 per cent since 2014, with most occurring in Civic and Belconnen. The data came in the wake of a 2016 study that revealed alcohol-related crime to cost ACT taxpayers $11.7 million dollars annually

Mr Thorn said figures continually showed the need for the ACT government to reconsider measures such as lockout laws, last drinks and minimum drink prices. ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr ruled out lockout laws 12 months ago.

ACT Victims of Crime Commissioner John Hinchey said Civic was a known high-risk area for violence but the solution went beyond reducing alcohol consumption.

"Alcohol in itself does not cause violence, violence and anger seem to be issues that underlie many antisocial behaviours in the community. And we must address these problematic cultures if we are going to promote long-term cultural change," Mr Hinchey said.

"Alcohol seems to be associated with positive social benefits for people and is promoted in our sporting arenas. We need to ensure our community is educated as to the harms caused by alcohol, with more funding put into prevention."

President of the Australian Medical Association ACT branch Professor Steve Robson hoped the Driving Chang study would shine a light on the pressures frontline emergency workers face.

"The reluctance of the ACT government to introduce 3am last drinks in the ACT is at odds with the carnage witnessed by police, ambos, doctors and nurses every day," " Professor Robson said.

"I invite the Chief Minister to spend a night with our police on the beat or at Calvary Hospital's emergency department to experience the very real level of harm that exists here in Canberra."


Comment are now closed