”Surgeons are now spending an inordinate amount of time on alcohol-related injuries,” Professor Grigg, a vascular surgeon and professor of surgery at Melbourne’s Monash University, said.
”As a result of that we have commissioned our own internal report on this issue to guide our advocacy efforts. We expect to come up against the carefully marshalled forces of the alcohol industry. But we owe it to the community to highlight the extent of the damage being wrought by the abuse of alcohol.”
While surgeons had previously worked with government to introduce legislation around blood-alcohol levels and drink-driving, a vascular and trauma surgeon at Sydney’s Liverpool Hospital, John Crozier, said clinicians were now tackling more alcohol-related injury and violence.
More than 350 people died in Australia and 14,000 were hospitalised because of someone else’s drinking every year, he said.
”The tragedy is so much is preventable,” Dr Crozier said. ”Whether harm is occurring through an impulsive act by an intoxicated young person who ends up injuring themselves or someone else, or someone is harmed through an act of aggression by an intoxicated person, the end result can be horrific injuries and death.”
Every area of surgery was being affected, he said. ”Plastic surgeons are repairing tendons of youths who get drunk and punch windows. Orthopaedic surgeons are fixing the legs of people who get drunk, then have a fall. The scale of the problem is huge.”
”We are still playing catch-up, wading within the walls of hospitals to pick up the pieces once the body has already been broken,” he said.
”It would be better by far to prevent the harm closer to source. We need to tax beverages proportional to their alcohol content and reduce the availability of alcohol in the community.”