Health supports proposals to reduce alcohol-related harm

Thursday June 27, 2013

A submission from the Canterbury District Health Board has commended the Christchurch City Council for its proposals to reduce alcohol-related harm in the city.
Submissions for the council’s draft Local Alcohol Policy close Monday July 1.
The Canterbury health system is endorsing the LAP, including its proposal for a 1am one-way door policy and a 3am closing time for bars and restaurants in the central city.
David Meates, CDHB chief executive, says the CDHB is fully backing the policy and believes it will help reduce alcohol related harm and make the city safer and healthier.
“Every division of the Canterbury health system is affected by alcohol misuse and alcohol-related harm. Any efforts that go towards a reduction in alcohol misuse and alcohol related accidents have the DHB’s full support,” Mr Meates says. 
“Not only will the draft LAP help reduce alcohol in our community, it will also help provide a safer environment for our staff who are regularly verbally, and occasionally physically, abused or threatened by intoxicated patients and visitors.”
Dr Alistair Humphrey, Canterbury Medical Officer of Health, says international research shows controls on hours of alcohol sales reduce harm.
“Evidence from around the world shows that the more alcohol is made available to a population, the more excess alcohol will be consumed and the more harm will be experienced by that population,” Dr Humphrey says.
“In Norway, for instance, it has been found that for each additional one-hour extension to the opening times of premises selling alcohol, there will be a 16 percent increase in violent crime.”
“In countries similar to New Zealand around the world, the most common closing time is 2.00am, including Paris, Rome and Los Angeles. By convention, nearly all pubs in London close before midnight and the pubs in Dublin close at 11.30pm.  ‘Vibrancy’ does not depend on late licences.  As any of our doctors or nurses working in the early hours of the morning will tell you, ‘vomit is not vibrancy’.
Dr Humphrey says one way door policies reduce crime in two ways.
“They prevent the inevitable altercations when intoxicated people are wandering between bars late at night and they reduce the number of people leaving bars all in one go, as people who leave during the one-way door period tend to go home – all this helps reduce violent crime and the number of injuries requiring medical treatment.”
Alcohol related admissions to Christchurch Hospital’s Emergency Department peak between 10pm and 4am, and the current on-license hours in Christchurch are a contributing factor.
Dr Humphrey says the arguments claiming the changes will damage our economy fail to consider the full impact of alcohol.
“Alcohol related disorders already cost Canterbury District Health Board between $60-$70 million dollars a year.  These costs come from the taxpayer.
This money would be better spent on reducing waiting times and improved treatments for illnesses other than those caused by excessive alcohol consumption.”
The CDHB supports the proposal to implement 9am-9pm maximum trading hours for off-licensed premises such as supermarkets, bottle stores and grocery stores.
“It is important that Christchurch develops a vibrant and prosperous evening scene, and for this reason supports encouraging people to go out to licensed premises earlier in the evening instead of “pre-loading” on cheap alcohol at home.
“Pre-loading is the most harmful aspect of the New Zealand drinking culture and it is paid for by all New Zealanders, both in taxes and in the misery of violence, abuse and injury. It places an unreasonable burden on the hospitality industry, an unreasonable burden on the police and an unreasonable burden on our health services. 
“In order to support a quality hospitality industry with a vibrant and safe economy, it is important to reduce the availability of cheap off-licensed alcohol.
A modest reduction in the availability of alcohol from off-licences is a small price to pay for a safer, more vibrant Christchurch,” Dr Humphrey says.
Additional comments from Canterbury health leaders:  
“Alcohol related harm incurs a significant cost to the health sector, representing money, time and resources which could be being directed to other health needs. The Clinical Board unanimously supports for the provisions of the draft CCC Policy.”
Dr Daniel Williams, CDHB Clinical Board Chair
“Excess alcohol is easily the worst drug problem we deal with in the Emergency Department. Almost all violence towards Emergency Department staff is related to excess alcohol.”
Dr Jan Bone, Consultant Emergency Physician
“About 50 percent of patients treated for facial fractures at Christchurch Hospital have been involved in incidents related to excess alcohol.”
Mr Leslie Snape, Maxillofacial Surgeon
“I find it distressing when other patients, especially young children are exposed to the aggressive and abusive behaviour from people who are intoxicated.”
Christchurch Hospital, ED nurse
“Hospital and security staff have to deal with aggression, agitation and violent outbursts/bad behaviour most weekends and during the week because of alcohol. The alcohol related events and trouble we are seeing are mostly avoidable. The establishments serving alcohol on licensed premises need to evaluate at an earlier time the type and condition of the patrons they are letting in and serving along with the hours they are open for.”
Shaun Evans, CDHB Security Services Manager  
“Nurses and other health staff are regularly verbally, and occasionally physically, abused or threatened by intoxicated patients making it difficult to assist with injuries. Sometimes people do not remember the things they say and do under the influence of alcohol, but we do. Mostly though we remember how sad and angry we are that so many of our people, and particularly our young people, continue to put their lives and futures at risk through excessive drinking behaviour. Please help us stop excessive drinking by supporting the 1am one-way door and 3am closing.”
Heather Gray, Director of Nursing Christchurch Hospital 
“People come to the ED with alcohol intoxication, they are disruptive and time consuming,  and often divert care away from more seriously unwell patients… the recognition by staff that this is yet another Friday night, the likelihood of being faced with abusive behaviour and language creates an environment that few people would enjoy working in.”
Sandra Richardson and Tracey Williams, on behalf of the ED Senior Nursing Team
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