The West

Drunk callouts swamp ambos
Needing help: Alcohol related cases are keeping pararmedics busy. Picture: Astrid Volzke/ The West Australian

WA ambulance paramedics are facing a surge in callouts for alcohol intoxication with new figures revealing 10 drunken people were treated a day last year - a staggering increase on previous years.

St John Ambulance figures show 3903 people were treated primarily for alcohol misuse last year, including 383 teenagers and children - 60 per cent more than the 2010-11 financial year when there were 2445 callouts.

More than three-quarters of the intoxicated patients had to be taken to hospital, including four children under the age of 12.

The figures include only callouts where alcohol was the primary concern and not other illnesses or injuries where alcohol was involved.

McCusker Centre for Action on Alcohol and Youth director Mike Daube said it was a huge waste of resources which also put people, including children, at significant risk.

"This is where the fantasy of happy, laughing drinkers portrayed in liquor advertisements meets the hard reality of emergency departments," he said.

"Something is badly wrong when our dedicated ambulance services and emergency departments are being swamped by these totally preventable pressures.

"What makes this even worse is that these are very conservative figures, because they are only for ambulance callouts where alcohol intoxication was the primary reason so they don't include other alcohol-related problems such as drink-driving crashes, falls, and assault injuries."

He said it was worrying there was a marked increase in people becoming dangerously drunk to the point of needing medical care.

"The costs of alcohol to our health and law enforcement systems are enormous," he said.

The Australian Medical Association said it shared concern about the latest data, especially the impact of alcohol on emergency departments at WA public hospitals.

WA president Richard Choong said the abuse of alcohol was becoming too common.

"Alcohol is increasingly taking up the time of emergency departments and having an impact on a range of medical and other areas including the need for additional security," he said.

The West Australian

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