Cold turkey’ alcohol response alarms nurses
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