Registered nurses Peta Gribbs and Angela Dabic, at the townsville Hospital emergency department … have worked on both Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Picture: Evan Morgan
Registered nurses Peta Gribbs and Angela Dabic, at the townsville Hospital emergency department … have worked on both Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Picture: Evan Morgan

Hey drunk people, stop clogging up our hospitals

I went to the emergency room for the first time recently, an experience I won't soon forget.

In less than four short hours I developed an intense respect for nurses and an even more intense hatred for injury-prone drunks that clog up hospitals.

I woke up on a Sunday morning unable to open my eyes, with any hint of light causing me to reel with pain.

I begrudgingly went to the doctor and paid the exorbitant weekend fee, expecting to be given a magic pill to cure what ailed me.

But instead the doctor took one look at me and said I needed to go to the hospital immediately to check if my eyes were damaged.

Growing up, I was always taught you should never go to the hospital unless you are about to die.

Fear overtook me as I anticipated being admonished by a Nurse Ratched type for wasting public resources with my 'scum eyes', as my partner had taken to calling them.

But that couldn't be further from the truth.

After I sheepishly shuffled to the front desk - doctor's letter in hand - I was triaged by a kind nurse and left to sit in the general waiting room with a group of people who looked as if they were simply waiting for a bus.

The silly season … not just a clever name. Pic: iStock
The silly season … not just a clever name. Pic: iStock

One man, I kid you not, walked in, said he was "a little bit dizzy" and asked for a sandwich.

After about an hour, the pain in my eyes had grown so intense I considered tearing them from my skull, so I was moved to a second waiting room for the more serious cases.

'Here is where the really sick people are!' I thought.

I was wrong again.

For two and a half hours, I shared a waiting room with people who could have avoided their predicaments altogether if they'd just employed some common sense and self-control.

There was an American DJ who had broken his foot in a stage dive gone wrong, a young woman who rolled her ankle while drunk in heels, a man that jumped off a roof while drunk and hurt his hand (who laughed while admitting he'd done the same thing years before) and another man who had hurt his leg during a drinking session.

I think you can see the pattern here.

No wonder the National Health and Medical Research Council proposed this week that Australians slash their drinking before Christmas to just 10 drinks a week for adults.

The nurses were run off their feet, but patiently listened to each person.

The lovely nurse who gave me anaesthetic eye drops was wearing a badge that said "Today, I'm looking after 19 patients. I should be looking after 4".

I couldn't help but feel guilty I had added to her workload and annoyed that people who had made stupid decisions while drunk had contributed as well.

I was eventually diagnosed me with a nasty viral eye infection and sent on my way with a strict eyedrop and ointment regimen and a new appreciation for hard working nurses.

Chloe Lyons is an investigative reporter for News Corp.


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