BOXING Day 2012 was expected to be the busiest day in the history of the St George Hospital emergency department.
Staff have been preparing for up to a 40 per cent increase in presentations between December 22 and January 5.
On Boxing Day last year, a record 265 people passed through the doors of emergency.
Of those, one-quarter were aged 16 to 24 and most were male.
Senior staff specialist in emergency, Peter Grant, said alcohol-fuelled domestic violence was the most common reason for ambulance callouts at Christmas.
Other common presentations included road trauma victims, children with injuries involving toys, bikes and skateboards; heat stroke, and elderly patients suffering falls in unfamiliar environments.
‘‘People drink in the hot sun, and home truths come out,’’ Dr Grant said.
‘‘An increase in mental health presentations may also occur as Christmas can be a lonely time for the socially isolated.’’
Dr Grant said the best way to avoid being in an emergency was to take extra care on the roads and waterways, moderate alcohol consumption, have an adequate supply of prescription medications on hand and supervise elderly relatives with limited mobility.
‘‘Presentations go up because GPs are shut and people run out of medications,’’ he said.
Dr Grant said there were also cases of fill-in carers bringing in elderly relatives because they could not cope.
‘‘It’s a bit of a perfect storm. It’s that very defined period from December 22 to January 5.’’
The St George Hospital emergency department is a major trauma centre that accepts patients from across the state and as far away as Norfolk Island.
There are also after-hours GP clinics at St George Private Hospital and Kareena Private Hospital in Caringbah. Heathdirect Australia (1800 022 222) is a 24-hour free hotline for non-urgent medical conditions.
Have you had any experiences with an emergency ward over the Christmas break?