Spike in emergency presentations

EMERGENCY department staff say last weekend was one of the worst for alcohol and drug-related injuries and abuse at the Launceston General Hospital.

According to nurse unit manager Scott Rigby and director of emergency medicine Paul Pielage, Friday night saw a spike in presentations fuelled by alcohol and the drug crystal methamphetamine - otherwise known as ice.

Mr Rigby said the emergency department had seen a spate of injuries from assaults, falls and accidents, with staff and other patients subjected to abuse.

``It was probably one of the worst nights I've seen in a while - particularly for the staff involved,'' Mr Rigby said.

``The demanding and aggressive behaviour was just appalling, and we have absolute zero tolerance for that.''

Mr Rigby said the preventable injuries and dramas took time and resources away from people who had no choice but to be in hospital.

``We've got a bit of trepidation coming into this period simply because we're coming off the back of our busiest year ever for clinical presentations,'' Mr Rigby said.

``So these preventable-type injuries add to the workload when we are already dealing with a huge workload of high-acuity, very sick patients.''

Mr Rigby said it was normal for the hospital to treat three or four alcohol-related assaults each weekend night.

He said Friday night's spike in ice-related injuries followed another a few months ago, while marijuana use was a constant problem.

``We get a lot of marijuana-related medical issues and mental health issues - people are very naive to the effects of marijuana,'' he said.

Dr Pielage said the emergency department also saw a lot of middle-aged men over Christmas, who had ``tried to re-create their youth'' by taking to skateboards and other toys while under the influence of alcohol.

``Quite a few of them think, `I can do that', and we get an interesting selection of minor injuries on Christmas Day and the day or two after,'' he said.

``Another thing we tend to get is people eating too much, eating too fast and eating lumps of meat which get stuck in their throats.''

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