A1.0: Alcohol Related Emergency Department Presentations in a Regional Saskatchewan Hospital During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Caitlyn Davidson Meyer, Natalie Boctor, Heather May, Mira Pavan, Breanna Davis, Rhonda Bryce, Vivian Ramsden

The COVID-19 pandemic and corresponding public health restrictions have resulted in reported increases in alcohol use and related morbidity across Canada. It is prudent to examine the impact of the pandemic on alcohol related healthcare utilization in Saskatchewan. Did the number of Emergency Department presentations for alcohol intoxication and withdrawal increase during the pandemic? Did the severity of these presentations increase as determined by disposition from the ED? Emergency visits at a regional Saskatchewan hospital with a diagnosis of alcohol intoxication and alcohol withdrawal were reviewed for demographic information and disposition during the period of November 17 to January 12, in 2019-2020 (pre-pandemic) and 2020-2021 (mid-pandemic). A generalized linear mixed model analysis was performed. The project was reviewed and approved by the Biomedical Research Board of the University of Saskatchewan. 141 visits representing 97 patients during the pre-pandemic period and 152 visits representing 89 patients during the pandemic period were reviewed. There were no significant differences in the number of visits for alcohol intoxication or withdrawal, nor in sex, age, or repeat visits during these time periods. Patients seen during the pandemic period were 2.7 times more likely to be discharged to detox rather than leaving without being seen or against medical advice (p=0.04). These results vary from trends seen in other Canadian provinces. The lack of increase in alcohol related presentations may be attributable to diagnostic coding, as patients often present with an alternative primary diagnosis such as pancreatitis or liver disease. We hypothesize that an overall reduction in ED volumes may have led to increased access to detox assessments and referrals locally during the pandemic period. There was no increase in alcohol intoxication and withdrawal presentations at our regional Saskatchewan ED during the pandemic, however patients were more likely to be referred to detox during the pandemic.
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