Health research unveils Queenstown’s shocking alcohol record


New Southern District Health Board research shows the numbers of alcohol-related presentations requiring help at Lakes District Hospital’s emergency department are twice those of Dunedin or Invercargill hospitals.

A 10-month study last year reveals 12 per cent of local hospital presentations were booze-induced, compared with six per cent in Dunedin and five per cent in Invercargill.

The SDHB report, which shows resort revellers party and cause problems far later than in the southern cities, reiterates a call for blanket 2am closing of bars in the resort, where the norm is 4am.

At all SDHB hospitals, most alcohol-related patients turn up between midnight and 4am – yet researchers note Dunedin and Invercargill show sharp drop-offs after 4am while “the prevalence [at LDH] remains high after 4am.”

Overall, the resort hospital at Frankton saw 470 alcohol-related patients between late January and early November last year – 12 a week on average.

And the figures probably understate the resort’s booze problem, researchers believe, because their survey doesn’t span Christmas and New Year, peak visitor periods.

The 2012 study accompanies “hospital discharge data” from Queenstown, Dunedin and Invercargill between 2008-12 – and the stats expose other ugly sides of Queenstown’s ‘backpacker party-town’ reputation.

Most alcohol-related cases at LDH fall within the 18-24 age group – and 26 of the hospital’s 470 alcohol-affected patients were under 18.

Queenstown women drink as hard as men, the stats show – unlike Dunedin and Invercargill where male patients clearly outnumber females.

SDHB is sending its alcohol report to all councils in its area, hoping to influence the imminent preparation of local body alcohol policies under the new Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act 2012.

The SDHB report, which also surveys 117 GPs and 401 other health and associated professionals from the lower south including 33 from the Wakatipu, says: “Over 80 per cent [of respondents] believe alcohol has a major or leading role in violent crime, domestic violence, accidents, injury and child neglect.”

Other consequential effects are sexually-transmitted infections, unwanted pregnancies, absenteeism and self-harm.

As well as increased risk of injury, specific health threats from alcohol misuse include liver disease, a range of cancers, acute pancreatitis, alcoholic gastritis, hepatic failure and alcoholic cardiomyopathy.

SDHB’s hospital discharge data show the alcohol problem in the lower south is worsening, with the report saying: “The number of patient episodes including alcohol-attributable conditions increased steadily and substantially over the five-year period, beyond what we might expect from population growth.”

Citing survey respondents, SDHB is calling on councils to legislate for liquor stores and supermarkets to close at 10pm and clubs and pubs at 2am.

The number and location of licensed premises should also be restricted, the report proposes, with pubs, bars, clubs, bottle shops, convenience stores and supermarkets targeted.

Restaurants and cafes play little part in alcohol-related problems, SDHB believes.

There are about 400 licensed premises in the Wakatipu and Wanaka.

That demon drink stretches the local frontline

Queenstown doctor: “[We] treat a lot of alcohol-related injuries, particularly in the weekends. Many require admission overnight in the hospital.”

Resort cop: “A large portion of our clients only offend whilst intoxicated. If they didn’t drink alcohol or have its influence in their lives, they’d be model members of society.”

Wakatipu support worker: “[Alcohol has a] huge impact on families, especially when associated with mental health issues. [It] impacts general health, ability to pay accounts, eat properly, have a social life.”

SOURCE: SDHB report ‘Impact of Alcohol on the Health of Southern Communities’

Hangover hits home

Highest proportion of alcohol-related hospital patients in lower South Island – twice Dunedin and Invercargill

470 patients in 10 months – average 12 a week

Mostly 18-24 – several under-age

Highest proportion of females

More taken to hospital after 4am than elsewhere.