'Christmas can be a sad time in the ED'

MACKAY'S dedicated doctors and nurses are hoping they do not see tragedy destroy Christmas for any families this year as they prepare for the busy holiday season.

Mackay Base Hospital emergency department director Dr Pieter Nel is asking residents to use their commonsense after last year's festive celebrations ended in the ED for more than 200 people in two days.

On Boxing Day last year, 132 patients went to the ED - compared with 129 on an average day - and 28 of these were admitted to hospital for further treatment.

Last Christmas Day 109 patients went through the ED and 30 of these were admitted to hospital.

Dr Nel said he hoped he and his team did not have to treat anyone from road accidents on Christmas Day.

"Christmas can be a sad time in the ED. We all have families and it's hard for us to see tragedies ruin Christmas and destroy Christmas forever after for affected families,” Dr Nel said.

"Unfortunately we see that alcohol is often a common thread to these events.

"Christmas is also a difficult day for some with people presenting with anxiety, depression and self-harm.

"A good support network of family and friends can help ease stress during the festive season so please look out for your friends, neighbours and relatives that might need help.”

Viral infections, urinary tract infections, possible cardiac chest pain, abdominal pain and gastroenteritis were the most common diagnoses during the last festive season.

Dr Nel said the majority of cases were for medical conditions that did not stop just because it was Christmas and the closure of GP surgeries made it a busy time in hospital.

"We need to keep the ED free for emergencies and appeal to people to take care and avoid preventable injuries,” he said.

Dr Nel said commonsense often went out the window over the Christmas-new year period and asked people to consider the consequences of their actions.

He also reminded people with pools to make sure they were fenced properly and the gate locked, that they knew how to do CPR and kept an eye on young children.

"Just a little commonsense and some compassion will make the Christmas-New Year period a pleasure for everyone and hopefully diminish the chances of them ending up in the Emergency Department,” he said.

Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Chris Zappala also said using commonsense and not drinking to excess would reduce the chances of a Christmas trip to hospital.

"It's always a little worse at this time of year so we need to remember what those safe drinking guidelines are,” he said.

Dr Zappala also urged residents to remember family members and people in the community who were disadvantaged or ostracised at Christmas and keep an eye on those vulnerable in the heat.

He thanked the ED staff who would be working this Christmas and taking time out from their families.

"A huge thank you to those individuals who help us all when we get into scrapes in the holiday season,” he said.

People with non-urgent conditions are encouraged to see a GP or go to a pharmacy for assistance. In an emergency, phone 000 and ask for an ambulance. If you are unsure whether you need to go to an ED, phone 13HEALTH (13 43 25 84) for advice.


  • Ensure you have enough medication to last over public holidays.
  • Keep hydrated and avoid drinking too much alcohol.
  • Wash your hands and dry thoroughly before handling any food.
  • Don't risk food poisoning by eating dodgy leftovers. If in doubt, throw it out.
  • Supervise children around pools, dams and at the beach.
  • Keep batteries out of reach of children.
  • Look out for friends, family and neighbours who might need help.


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