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Garda warning after medics forces to set up field hospital at disco to treat drunken teens



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Gardaí warned they will adopt a ‘zero tolerance’ approach to alcohol abuse after three teens were hospitalised and a field hospital had to be set up in the ground of a Cork rugby club to treat drunken youngsters after hundreds flocked to a youth disco.

The disco, being held at Bandon Rugby Club, was alcohol-free but organisers, security staff and Bandon gardaí were horrified at the condition of dozens of teens arriving for the event on coaches from all over Cork city and county.

Many had been drinking for hours before travelling to the event.

Gardaí warned they will not tolerate substantial emergency service resources being diverted to cope with such levels of under-age alcohol abuse.

Chief Superintendent Con Cadogan warned that parents need to take responsibility for their children.

“The bottom line is that parents need to be more vigilant,” he said.

Health officials paid tribute to Bandon Rugby Club for the professional manner in which they responded to a challenging situation outside their control.

Some teenagers were so drunk arriving at the scene that they needed immediate medical attention and help to breathe.

Three ambulances were dispatched to the scene and a doctor set up a triage, before sending two critically-ill children to Cork University Hospital (CUH).

Meanwhile, a medic was called to Bandon Garda Station to tend to drunk teenagers who had been refused from the alcohol-free venue, and had subsequently begun "fighting on the streets of Bandon".

Furthermore, a doctor described how he responded to "tetchy" parents who claimed their children's drinks "had been spiked".

There were approximately 500 teenagers, about 16-years-old, attending the disco last Friday night.

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Speaking on RTE Radio One's Today with Sean O'Rourke, consultant in emergency medicine at the CUH Chris Luke said "his heart sank" when he heard three ambulances had been dispatched to the west Cork town.

"I heard there was the possibility of half a dozen, a dozen very ill teens coming in our direction," Dr Luke said.

"We're basically stretched to the end of our pin already."

He paid credit to critical care retrieval physician Jason van der Velde who decided to triage the teenagers at the scene to avoid overwhelming an already-stretched A&E unit.

Speaking this morning Dr van der Welde said the best description of the scene was a "vomitorium".

"When I arrived, the crew had a completely unconscious teen.

"We organised our resources like we do in a major incident, we set up a field hospital and said let's get a handle on it before we start pushing ambulances out, if you start pushing them out you start running out of resources very fast."

Dr van der Welde said there was credit due to the rugby club hosting the alcohol-free underage event who "did an exceptional job" in bringing the intoxicated teenagers into a safe area in the clubhouse to ensure they were warm and safe.

"I'm not exaggerating but at least two teenagers had the potential to die at the scene.

"Their blood pressure was into the seventies, they were unconscious.

"I'm not talking about a little tipsy. We're talking about paralytic, unconscious drunk.

"You've got to make sure they're warm, that they're properly looked after on their side so they don't choke on their own vomit."

The doctor confirmed that they sent two teenagers to hospital for prolonged critical care and were looked after overnight by nursing staff.

He said he was then called to the local garda station to check on teenagers who had begun fighting in the town.

"Some kids who were not allowed into the disco had gone into Bandon town and started fighting on the streets.

"I had to go into the garda cells and make sure they're okay."

Dr van der Welde said it is important to have outlets like youth discos for teens to express themselves and enjoy themselves.

He also said there were plenty of kids who got into buses safely and made it to the "wonderful party safely and had a wonderfully safe time".

"A dozen kids let their side down," he said.

Speaking about the hospital's resources, Dr Chris Luke said they are raising the issue because the A&E department is "already stowed out".

"These youngsters, these children, will die. They're scantily clad and they're heading out drunk into the winter night and if they fall asleep in the ditch, they will vomit and they will die. Most of these deaths are due to hypothermia and dying from choking on your own vomit."

He continued: "It upsets me a little when parents rush to the diagnosis of spiked drink.

"If parents raise the issue of spiked drink, they're raising an issue like rape, murder, kidnap, it is an incredibly serious thing to suggest to hospital staff.

"It is a very serious suggestion. And of course, like Jason said, they're blind drunk getting on the bus and off the bus, they have naggins of vodka, the traditional drink. In what part of this chain of events were the drinks spiked and how were they spiked?

"Spiking a drink is incredibly rare," he continued.

"We have to go back to the parents and say get a grip, nobody else can prevent this other than the parents, if your child is scantily clad and going out on a winter's night with a clinking rucksack.

"It's getting very upsetting when people lash out at staff and say some bogeyman spiked their drinks.

"At the minimum, these parents can be tetchy, sometimes they can be abusive.

"To suggest your teen's drink was spiked is an astonishingly serious allegation and should involve the guards."

Dr van der Weld added; "Let's be absolutely clear. Some of these teens who were completely unconscious, we pulled naggins out of their socks, the most ingenious ways of concealing alcohol.

"Let's be absolutely clear on this, let's not beat around the bush here."

Gardaí are investigating a number of public order incidents and an alleged assault arising out of the incident.

All disco goers were searched at the front door for drink and drugs and anyone in an intoxicated state was refused entry.

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