Nearly 6000 West Aussies had to call an ambulance in 2021 after getting too drunk

Charlotte EltonThe West Australian
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Dion Brink, executive director of ambulance operations for St John Ambulance. Nic Ellis
Camera IconDion Brink, executive director of ambulance operations for St John Ambulance. Nic Ellis Credit: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

Nearly 6000 West Aussies had to call an ambulance after drinking too much alcohol last year – an average of about 16 per day.

St John WA ambulance service responded to 5914 cases directly linked to alcohol intoxication in 2021.

This shocking figure is up 8 per cent on 2020, and 12 per cent on 2017. It’s also the tip of the iceberg – it doesn’t include cases where an ambulance is called to help someone who has experienced an injury while drunk.

On the eve of Australia day – a date when ambulance call-outs usually blow out by around 20 per cent – St John are urging people to drink responsibly.

“We’re not saying people shouldn’t have a drink. We’re just asking mindful of them of the quantity they drink,” said Deon Brink, St John WA Director of Ambulance Services.

“A good thing to remember is to stay hydrated. Even if you do drink a lot of alcohol, make sure you alternate it with water.”

“Enjoy yourself… but just think, and do it with some moderation in mind.”

St John WA ambulance service responded to 5914 cases directly linked to alcohol intoxication in 2021.
Camera IconSt John WA ambulance service responded to 5914 cases directly linked to alcohol intoxication in 2021. Credit: Astrid Volzke/The West Australian

Sixty-seven per cent of alcohol intoxication patients attended to were transported to hospital – creating undue stress that the beleaguered hospital system does not need.

“What is particularly disappointing is that ambulance cases relating to alcohol intoxication are mostly avoidable and take our frontline resources away from responding to other life-threatening Triple Zero situations,” Mr Brink said.

The veteran ambo also warned that excessive drinking could enable the spread of COVID-19.

“Reduced inhibition because of alcohol consumption may lead to people being less vigilant about wearing their masks, keeping physical distancing, and washing their hands,” he said.

“This is a critical juncture for Western Australia to suppress the spread of Omicron which we know is in community.

“It is no exaggeration to say excessive alcohol consumption poses a bigger risk than ever before.”

Veteran ambo Dion Brink also warned that excessive drinking could enable the spread of COVID-19.
Camera IconVeteran ambo Dion Brink also warned that excessive drinking could enable the spread of COVID-19. Credit: Nic Ellis/The West Australian

Sadly, six of the 2021 call-outs were for children under the age of 12. Nearly one of the 16 daily call-outs is for someone aged 18 of younger.

Cancer Council WA Alcohol Program Manager Julia Stafford described the figures as “alarming.”

“It’s a sad reality that frontline health services have come to expect a spike in alcohol-related incidents on Australia Day,” she said.

“However, this problem is not limited to any one time of the year or one part of the State.”

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