After witnessing the high price of alcohol-related violence, eminent medical specialists from St Vincent's Hospital have issued an ultimatum to governments to rein in rampant alcohol abuse.
Pointing to street assaults blamed on drunkenness, including attacks that left two men in neighbouring beds in the hospital's intensive care ward before Christmas, the hospital's specialists are pooling their knowledge to combat the violence.
''What's getting worse is the violence,'' the hospital's Emergency Department director Gordian Fulde said. ''Alcohol stands alone as our biggest problem.''
The group has been established because of what it believes is a lack of action from NSW and federal governments on the issue.
''The governments are saying we want more personal responsibility, but the parameters they're setting with cheap booze, licensed premises everywhere, and heavy alcohol advertising, are saying it's a free-for-all,'' St Vincent's Hospital spokesman David Faktor said.
The hospital's efforts will target three policy areas: the availability of alcohol, the level of taxation of alcohol and better regulation of alcohol advertising.
A spokesman for NSW Hospitality Minister George Souris referred The Sun-Herald to his recent comments stating the O'Farrell government viewed problems related to alcohol very seriously.
This included appointing 420 extra police officers since late 2011, promoting ''personal responsibility'' by trialling sobering-up centres in Sydney and introducing a ''three strikes'' policy targeting irresponsible venues in Sydney.
Premier Barry O'Farrell said the state government had worked with communities in areas including Manly and Kings Cross to deliver a reduction in alcohol-fuelled violence.
But Mr O'Farrell warned governments could ''never do enough'' to completely stamp out violence.
''There needs to be some recognition from the community that people need to drink responsibly,'' Mr O'Farrell said on Saturday.
Calls to the Australian Hotels Association at federal and NSW levels were not returned.
Mr Faktor said the liquor industry and the NSW government were arguing that alcohol-related violence had been decreasing on Sydney's streets when evidence from emergency departments indicated the contrary.
St Vincent's has formed a ''national alcohol committee'' of specialists from diverse disciplines - including Dr Nadine Ezard and Dr Alex Wodak from the hospital's Alcohol and Drug Service - that will ramp up its advocacy of alcohol harm minimisation policies and health education.
The committee draws on specialists from across the hospital's national entity, St Vincent's Health Australia, which is the country's largest not-for-profit health care provider with hospitals in NSW, Victoria and Queensland.
The group also wants the Newcastle model - with sharply curtailed opening hours for hotels and nightclubs - trialled in Kings Cross, which has the highest concentration of licensed premises in NSW. But most important, the committee wants to start collecting better data on the number of alcohol-related admissions across its network of hospitals.
''This will be multi-pronged,'' Professor Fulde said. ''We all need to know what we're dealing with and where to put the resources, and prevention is actually where it's all at.
''For every dollar spent on prevention you save at least $20 downstream. We know prevention is not that sexy, but if we're going to go that way, which I think we should, we have to have some really good data.''
Published in the SMH. Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/leading-doctors-join-forces-to-challenge-governments-over-alcohol-laws-20131228-300ou.html#ixzz2pCQ5EJ5u