LETTER TO THE EDITOR
Sir – The Emergency Department (ED) at Alice Springs Hospital has been transformed by a combination of important alcohol policy measures.
The continuation of the successful combination of changes means Alice should have a much happier time this Christmas, and hopefully for good.
Since October 1, when the Police Auxiliary Liquor Inspectors (PALIs) started covering take-away outlets during all, or almost all, opening hours, and the legislated floor price of $1.30 a standard drink started, there has been a major reduction in presentations to the ED.
The Banned Drinker Register, the policing of secondary supply and the active policing of on-licence drinking are all no doubt helping as well.
The long-term average of around 150 presentations a day to ED has reduced by a third to 100 presentations a day.
Domestic Violence presentations to ED are down a massive 87%, which is the largest impact on this major problem we have seen.
ED is no longer dealing with the stabbings or high level of other serious assaults that it used to see regularly, and is no longer full of heavily intoxicated people. This means it is a very different place.
Alice Springs residents will find that if they do need to go to ED they will be treated in a more timely manner as a result.
We know all this thanks to the information presented to last week’s meeting of the Northern Territory Clinical Senate.
The Senate is a selected group of clinical experts appointed by the NT Government to provide the CEO of NT Health with advice about improving both patient safety and the clinical quality of health services across the Northern Territory.
I am a member of the Clinical Senate, which is chaired by Dr. Stephen Gourley, head of Emergency Medicine at the Alice Springs Hospital.
I am also aware that this major progress is matched by equally significant changes in police data.
The Clinical Senate also heard that police protective custodies are down from 800 to 150 a month in Alice Springs. That alone is a Christmas gift worth having.
Police should be commended for the work the PALIs are doing on the alcohol outlets, the tougher approach that sworn officers are taking to drinking on premises and for their continuing efforts to apprehend sly grog runners.
I am sure that everyone in Alice can see the difference in our town. Fewer drunken people and less violence can only make Alice a more caring and safe community this Christmas.
The changes must of course be sustained over time, and the reforms properly evaluated.
The proof will be in the pudding, but at the moment, it seems we have the right ingredients and the NT Government’s combined package of alcohol reforms is off to a great start.
Dr John Boffa (pictured)
People’s Alcohol Action Committee (PAAC)