Emergency department boss reveals top reasons for hospital presentations over the holiday season

18 Dec 2015

As Westmead Hospital prepares for the busiest time of the year, emergency department director Dr Matthew Vukasovic is urging the community to stay healthy and out of hospital.

Westmead is expecting a 20 per cent jump in presentations between Christmas and early January.

"Our emergency department is always prepared and ready to look after our community, but our Christmas wish is to have a quiet season and for everyone to stay safe," Dr Vukasovic said.

In an effort to minimise presentations, the doctor has revealed the top six reasons for hospital visits at Westmead, one of the state’s busiest emergency departments:

1. Mental health:

"Christmas can be a lonely time for people experiencing severe stress or mental illness and can trigger depression and increase the risk of self-harm," he said.

"At this time of year, it’s important we remember to look out for those who are vulnerable.

"Simply asking people their plans and being inclusive can be a welcome support. I also encourage people to keep busy, volunteer, exercise and stay healthy."

Support is available via:

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14 for 24/7 crisis support
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636 for 24/7 mental health advice and information
  • Mental Health Line on 1800 011 511 for 24/7 mental health advice and information
  • Healthdirect Australia on 1800 022 222 for 24/7 health advice and information

In an emergency, contact emergency services on 000.

2. Trauma:

"The most common injuries I see are the result of outdoor activities such as dirt bike riding, water skiing accidents or injuries from swimming pools," Dr Vukasovic said.

3. Alcohol related presentations from intoxication and trauma:

"Alcohol-related presentations remain one of the biggest reasons for people attending hospitals," the doctor said.

"Stick to no more than four standard drinks on a single occasion to reduce the risk of alcohol-related injury."

4. Post-Christmas lunch heart attacks

"These are not uncommon," Dr Vukasovic said.

"It’s easy to indulge but go easy on lunch and pace it out."

5. Heat-related illness

"We see these presentations, particularly in the elderly or those with chronic medical conditions," Dr Vukasovic said.

"On very hot days, drink plenty of water, minimise physical activity, wear light clothing and avoid alcohol."

6. Insect, spider or snake bites

"Bites can be very dangerous," the doctor said.

"Provide CPR if needed; calm the person and seek medical assistance immediately."

Residents are reminded that emergency departments are for emergencies only.

For all other medical requirements, please visit a medical centre.