LISTEN: 'A young life lost, it's over'
IT is a typical Friday night in the Rockhampton Hospital emergency department and up to five hospital staff are restraining a patient effected by drugs or alcohol as other patients sit in the waiting room.
They represent 10% of the 400 patients the emergency department see on average every month and are targeted under the Drug and Alcohol Brief Intervention Team (DABIT) which started in July.
DABIT provides acute brief interventions to patients regarding their substance use - which was 309 patients in Rockhampton last month.
Director of emergency Dr Ajay Chipiri said patients either directly or indirectly effected by drugs or alcohol were referred to the program upon presentation at the emergency department.
He said part of the intervention was aimed at addressing disruptive and violent patients.
"Some of them who are intoxicated either with drugs or alcohol are defiantly disruptive and they are threatening to the staff whether they be verbally abusive or physically abusive," he said.
"They are so aggressive it takes up to five people basically to hold them down.
"When an emergency department is quite busy on a Friday evening we see a huge amount of resources used as other patients get neglected and remember there are sicker patients, either kids, elderly, physically sick getting exposed to this type of violence.
"It takes away the morale of the doctors and nurses, the huge strain, the emotional strain they go through.
"You can't put a dollar value on that.
"People who are psychotic are a danger to themselves and a danger to staff."
It is a scenario Dr Chipiri and senior medical officer Dr Henk Sigle are tired of seeing.
"I think there is an under-appreciation of the seriousness of being drunk," Dr Sigle said.
"People don't realise you can die.
"We are trying to convey that reality which I think is absent from young people's consciousness.
"It makes us very angry because it takes away resources from other sick patients.
"It's not something we can hide behind closed doors.
"It's extremely sad, recently we've had young people die with just plain alcohol, that's a young life lost, it's gone forever, it's over.
"It's very sad, very unnecessary and it happens very very frequently."
Dr Chipiri said staff could "only beg people to be reasonable in their behaviour".
"The anger is immediate but it dissipates quickly but the sadness persists because we know these patients, they come to us again and again," he said.
Of the 309 patients referred to the program, 66 were considered moderate to high risk for alcohol abuse, 26 for methamphetamine and 58 for cannabis.
The most significant age group referred was 18 to 34-year olds and 58% were male.
"For the last three or four months we had some good statistics, about the number of people we interviewed and about how the intervention period helps," Dr Chipiri said.
"Having said that we do not think is a true representation of what's going on society, it's just the tip of the iceberg."