Summer alcohol-related emergency department workload and occupancy in Australasia 2019–2022

Drew B. Richardson, Daniel M. Fatovich, Diana Egerton-Warburton

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Alcohol is a major public health issue and the ACEM funds regular ‘snapshot’ surveys of the prevalence of alcohol-related presentations in EDs. The present study uses these data to investigate ED occupancy and alcohol- and methamphetamine-related presentations at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic. Methods: Survey-based point prevalence study of EDs in Australia and New Zealand conducted at 02:00 hours local time on the Saturday of the weekend before Christmas in 2019–2022. Primary outcomes were ED occupancy, the number of alcohol-related presentations and methamphetamine-related presentations in each ED at the time of survey. Results: Seventy eight of a possible 152 hospitals answered all four surveys (51%, 95% confidence interval 43–59, individual yearly response rates ranged from 70.5% to 83.3%). The mean number of alcohol-related presentations in EDs at the snapshot time was 4.2 (95% confidence interval 3.2–5.2) in the 2019 survey and 3.8 (3.1–4.6) in 2022 with no significant variation over time. There was also no change in methamphetamine-related presentations which occurred at a lower level. There was a major increase in reported total ED occupancy – from 31.4 to 43.5 in Australia (P < 0.0001, paired t test) and from 22.8 to 38.7 in New Zealand (P = 0.0001). Subgroup analysis showed that both the number being treated and the number waiting to be seen increased, with little change in the number in observation units. Conclusions: The present study demonstrates that the COVID-19 pandemic did not affect summer alcohol-related ED presentations in Australasia but was associated with an unsustainable increase in ED crowding.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEMA - Emergency Medicine Australasia
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 14 May 2024


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