Cold turkey’ al­co­hol re­sponse alarms nurses

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Health - Adam Cress­well

NURS­ING and other groups have warned Prime Min­is­ter John Howard of po­ten­tial pit­falls in his in­ter­ven­tion plan to tackle prob­lems in Abo­rig­i­nal com­mu­ni­ties — such as the dan­ger that cut­ting off al­co­hol sup­plies will not work with­out suit­able detox ser­vices.

While health and other or­gan­i­sa­tions are di­vided over the mer­its of the Gov­ern­ment’s plans to in­tro­duce health checks for in­dige­nous chil­dren, the Col­lege of Nurs­ing has raised con­cern over pro­pos­als to cut al­co­hol avail­abil­ity to re­duce grog-fu­elled vi­o­lence.

Col­lege of Nurs­ing ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Judy Lumby says she isn’t back­ing the con­tin­u­a­tion of al­co­hol sup­plies, merely em­pha­sis­ing the need for the same sup­port ser­vices con­sid­ered es­sen­tial in white com­mu­ni­ties.

‘‘ If you talk to any­one who’s se­ri­ously come off al­co­hol, they will tell you detox units are es­sen­tial for get­ting peo­ple off al­co­hol and ready to be re­ha­bil­i­tated,’’ pro­fes­sor Lumby said. ‘‘( In white com­mu­ni­ties) they have detox units, and they have cer­tainly been shown to work along­side good drug and al­co­hol coun­sel­lors.’’

She said shut­ting off al­co­hol sup­plies with­out pro­vid­ing th­ese ser­vices would not fuel vi­o­lence as al­co­hol it­self does. But it would drive al­co­hol-de­pen­dent peo­ple to find other sources of al­co­hol, or abuse other sub­stances.

‘‘ All it does (cut­ting off sup­ply with­out pro­vid­ing detox ser­vices) is make peo­ple search for other things (to abuse),’’ pro­fes­sor Lumby said. ‘‘ Peo­ple would move to other drugs, or move out of that com­mu­nity to an­other com­mu­nity where they can get ac­cess to al­co­hol — or to nearby cities. That would just shift the prob­lem rather than get to the root of de­vel­op­ing healthy com­mu­ni­ties again.’’

The Col­lege of Nurs­ing also ques­tioned what it termed the lack of con­sul­ta­tion with in­dige­nous health work­ers or Abo­rig­i­nal med­i­cal ser­vices over the Gov­ern­ment’s plan.

In­dige­nous nurse leader Sally Goold said the sud­den with­drawal of al­co­hol would be ‘‘ ir­re­spon­si­ble’’ with­out pro­vi­sion of detox ser­vices. ‘‘ Are th­ese go­ing to be avail­able as they are in white com­mu­ni­ties?’’ she asked.

Doc­tor Goold also called for great cau­tion in con­duct­ing checks of women or chil­dren who may have been sex­u­ally abused, say­ing women’s health nurses had sen­si­tiv­ity and ex­pe­ri­ence in deal­ing with this area.

The Na­tional Rural Health Al­liance — which rep­re­sents 27 na­tional health or­gan­i­sa­tions, in­clud­ing the Aus­tralian In­dige­nous Doc­tors As­so­ci­a­tion and the Royal Fly­ing Doc­tor Ser­vice — has warned John Howard Con­tin­ued inside, page 19

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