Busy season for hospital ERs

AUSTRALIANS are more likely to wind up in hospital emergency departments at Christmas and New Year, says emergency medicine expert Associate Professor Paul Middleton.

"Visits to hospital emergency departments increase by around 9% during the summer holiday period," Prof Middleton said.

"While around a third of this increase in emergency department visits can be explained by patients visiting hospitals while their GPs are closed over the holiday, the other two-thirds of the increase are due to a higher likelihood of accident, injury and heart attack at this time of year.

"The typical health problems that lead to this peak in hospital visits on Christmas Day and New Year include falls like Molly Meldrum's.

"Every year emergency doctors see an influx of fall injuries among men who ascend to various heights around the home, to clear the gutters or do the painting in a fit of youthful enthusiasm, or to place the fairy on the top of the Christmas tree."

Drowning remains a real risk over the holiday period and January is the month with the highest number of deaths, one-third of which occur after drinking alcohol.

Studies in the United States of this same spike in emergency department visits indicate that the incidence of self-harm, substance abuse, suicide and homicide also increases on Christmas Day and New Year.

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