According to DHB’s Dr Caroline McElnay, that’s the estimated annual cost of treating alcohol-related hospital admissions in Hawke’s Bay. And ACC claims for alcohol-related injuries in HB account for another estimated $19 million. Of course, you and I pay those bills through our taxes.
At a forum sponsored by Alcohol Action Hawke’s Bay, Dr McElnay presented a variety of — dare I say it — sobering facts about the health impact of excessive alcohol consumption, both nation-wide and here in the Bay.
A bit over 6% of all HBDHB hospital admissions (more than 1,300) are alcohol-related. Alcohol fuels spikes in Emergency Department presentations each Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 18-25% of injuries treated in our hospital’s ED are alcohol-related … half of these are individuals under the age of 25. And 41% of HB’s fatal car crashes involve alcohol (the NZ average is 30%).
In a similar vein, Napier Councillor Maxine Boag noted Police statistics 30% of all criminal offences in HB involve alcohol.
Today, the Law Commission issues its final report and recommendations to curb excessive alcohol consumption. MP Chris Tremain, also speaking at last night’s forum, noted that the report would contain 141 recommendations, and that Justice Minister Simon Power has promised the Government response within one month.
Alcohol is big business in New Zealand, employing 70,000 people directly. NZ consumers spend $4-5 billion a year on alcohol beverages. And its marketing spend (about $200,000 a day) carries the industry’s influence much farther, with 50% of that money spent on sponsorships … the fuel of sport in New Zealand.
As the year progresses, comprehensive legislation will be introduced. Further public input will be invited when the legislation is before a Select Committee.
The goal here is not to punish responsible drinking. But as MP Tremain said, the social costs of alcohol abuse are undeniable and must be addressed.