IT’S a typical Friday or Saturday nigh t.
Nurses and doctors at the Orange Base Hospital emergency department (ED) are doing their job, which is looking after and helping people in need.
The automatic doors open and a baby-face-looking boy aged in his mid-teens is brought into the ED heavily intoxicated.
Just another standard procedure for the nurses and doctors as they prepare to treat the patient.
All of a sudden, in his intoxicated state, the boy gets violent and starts verbally threatening the people who are trying to help him.
It’s a dangerous situation for all involved.
It takes several staff members and security to calm the patient down.
Fortunately this was a hypothetical situation.
But the reality is, this “hypothetical” and some similar to this have occurred in the Orange ED in the past.
“The nurses feel the brunt of it ... some of them get threatened,” Dr Jo Rainbow, a paediatrician at Orange Base Hospital, said.
“The feeling among the nurses is unpleasant.”
Dr Rainbow said under-age drinking, in particular binge drinking, was a major problem.
She said in the last nine months at least 15 people aged between 13 and 18 years had been taken into the hospital’s ED because they were under the influence of alcohol.
“That’s not including the ones [who are drunk] who suffer injuries or are involved in car accidents or get assaulted,” she said.
Although the number of hospital admissions of under-age drinkers remains relatively stable across the state, according to a NSW Health spokesperson, Dr Rainbow said there was a cause for concern.
A Roy Morgan Research poll prepared for the Salvation Army in September last year backs up her claim.
Roy Morgan surveyed 629 Australians, of which 45 were aged between 14 and 17 years.
The research asked interviewees the frequency of consumption of alcohol, the reasons or situations associated with alcohol consumption and if there were any attempts to reduce the amount of alcohol consumed.
Fourteen per cent of the 45 interviewees aged between 14 and 17 years said they drank alcohol often just to be social, while 19 per cent said they drank alcohol often because they were celebrating.
But what’s more alarming was that 9 per cent of interviewees in that age group often drank alcohol just to get drunk. Fifteen per cent sometimes drank just to get drunk.
Sixteen per cent said they drank often because their friends were doing it while 10 per cent drank in order to feel normal.
Dr Rainbow said that was where the problem was.
“They want to fit in with their peers ... they want to be cool in front of their friends,” she said.
“The bottom line is they don’t know how much they are drinking. They buy their alcopops or a bottle of vodka and drink that.”
But Dr Rainbow said if parents thought it was okay for their under 18 child to drink alcohol at home, they should think again.
“They are breaking the law. If they allow parties and have underage drinkers, they are breaking the law,” she said.
NSW Health has a fact sheet relating to the effects of excessive consumption of alcohol and the dangers that go with it.
It also has a 24-hour confidential telephone counselling service.