Alcohol is increasingly straining the healthcare system in New Zealand. Emergency department doctors and nurses are over-burdened from the pandemic as it is and alcohol cases are adding to this burden.
However, alcohol-related emergency incidents are preventable. Policy solutions are available to protect healthcare and emergency service functioning.

Alcohol fueled violence and other harm has been rampant, specifically in the weekends. For example, Manawatū police and ambulance staff say it was risky attending to alcohol intoxicated persons on the street. Alcohol-related problems are putting staff in emergency departments in harm’s way and are draining hospital resources.

This problem has become so commonplace that it is difficult to document it properly says David Prisk, Clinical director for Palmerston North Hospital’s emergency department.

It’s a significant problem in society and I think that it’s a significant problem in the emergency department, particularly in the weekend,” said David Prisk, Clinical director for Palmerston North Hospital’s emergency department, as per Stuff.

David Prisk, Clinical director for Palmerston North Hospital’s emergency department

Meanwhile, the mental health effect of managing this violence leads staff to take days off. This affects staffing levels and the care provided to emergency department patients. Dr. Prisk says the department had seen 283 patients present with alcohol-related issues in the past six months.

Alcohol policy solutions to improve healthcare system functioning

As a solution to this problem, Palmerston North City Council voted in favor of improved alcohol policy solutions. Reducing alcohol availability by instituting 2am bar closures and 9pm alcohol sales closing are part of the new provisional local alcohol policy.

Dr. Prisk says that any healthcare provider would support any measures which help to prevent and reduce alcohol harm.

Recently, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) released a comprehensive report showing that investing in policies to prevent and reduce alcohol harm would save millions of lives. Implementing proven alcohol policy solutions would yield substantial returns on investment and would benefit the health care system, the economy and society overall.

The report “Preventing Harmful Alcohol Use” estimates that for every US$ 1 invested in high-impact alcohol policy solutions, up to US$ 16 is returned in economic benefit, reports London Loves Business.

Analysis of 52 OECD, European Union and Group of 20 (G20) countries shows that life expectancy will be 0.9 years lower over the next 30 years due to diseases and injuries caused by alcohol consumption.

But the 4Ps alcohol policy package would have a significant positive impact on the pervasive alcohol harm across the OECD.

  1. Pricing – limit the affordability of alcohol, especially by eliminating ultra-cheap alcohol,
  2. Promotion – ban alcohol advertising, especially to protect children and including online alcohol advertising,
  3. Policing – improve law enforcement, for instance of driving under the influence counter-measures, and provide better services to victims of alcohol violence, and
  4. Primary care – invest to support people experiencing alcohol problems and alcohol use disorder. Currently, less than 10% receive the healthcare they need.
16 for 1
Return on investment from alcohol policy
Every US$1 invested in the alcohol policy blue print, yields a return of ca. $16.4 in economic benefits.
4.6 Mln
Saving lives through alcohol policy blue print
4.6 million life years annually across 48 countries could be saved through the 4Ps package.
28 Bln
Saving healthcare costs through alcohol policy
About US$ 28 billion could be saved yearly in healthcare costs through alcohol policy.

Implementation of the 4Ps Package promises savings of US$ 28 billion in health expenditure, according to Michele Cecchini, as per the Alcohol Issues Podcast episode 19. This is broadly equivalent to the current health spending in Israel or half the current health spending in Sweden.

Tackling alcohol harm is an excellent investment, for every US$1 invested it yields a return of ca. $16.4 from the “Prevention Package”.

Source Website: Stuff