A survey of 2000 emergency medicos by the Australasian College for Emergency Medicine has found that more than 9 in 10 emergency nurses and doctors have experienced threats and physical assaults from drunk patients in the last 12 months.
Dr Diana Egerton-Warburton, the ED physician who conducted the survey, says that staff have been punched, spat on, assaulted and vomited on by drunk patients in the past few weeks alone in the suburban hospital where she works.
Emergency department doctors have been knocked unconscious and pregnant nurses threatened with being punched in the stomach by violent, drunk emergency patients. In one instance a heart attack patient was too intimidated by a drunk patient in the next cubicle to ask for help.
One doctor from the study stated that where hospitals were once places of dignity, they now bear witness to behaviour that “would not be tolerated at 4am in a nightclub”.
I was put in my own resuscitation room with concussion and vomiting. I had residual effects for several weeks following. The patient was arrested in the ED and when asked why he hit the doctor his reply was “because no-one bought me a *bleep* sandwich” – a doctor who was assaulted and knocked unconscious by a drunk patient.
I was obviously pregnant. An alcohol affected patient threatened to punch me in the stomach — in front of his wife and kids” – ED Nurse
Doctors are calling on politicians to help curb the violence by restricting the opening times of places selling alcohol, with some hospitals now seeing up to 1 in 3 alcohol related presentations.
Australian Medical Association vice president and emergency physician Dr Steve Parnis says he was also recently threatened by a screaming drunk patient, and six months ago a neurosurgeon was stabbed in the main entrance to the hospital.
The security team was off dealing with a mental health case and this patient was hurling verbal abuse at me and lunged at me and tried to strike me with an IV fluid pole.”
Almost all of the 2000 emergency doctors and nurses surveyed (98%) had experienced verbal aggression that was alcohol related in the last twelve months, with a further 92% experiencing alcohol related physical violence or threats from patients.
Not surprisingly, almost 9 in 10 stated the presence of alcohol affected patients caused a negative effect on the workload and caused staff to feel unsafe at work.
“It’s time for policy makers and society to say ‘Enough is Enough’. This violence is preventable with good public health policies” says Dr Eberton-Warburton.
ACEM president Dr Anthony Cross says its time for politicians to act.
The college wants earlier closing times for venues selling alcohol rolled out nationally to curb alcohol related violence.