Objective: Alcohol consumption has been implicated as an important factor driving the demand for medical care at mass gatherings. Patients exhibiting signs of possible alcohol intoxication are frequently diverted from traditional medical support facilities located within mass gathering events due to their disruptive behavior or need for prolonged observation. This conventional strategy can place additional stress on Emergency Medical Services (EMS) and Emergency Department (ED) resources. The purpose of this study was to determine if incorporation of an on-site alcohol sobering facility to supplement existing on-site medical support resources was associated with changes in EMS and ED resource utilization during an annual mass gathering.
Methods: This retrospective observational study of a large, annual mass gathering included prospectively collected data from before and after the deployment of an on-site alcohol sobering facility. One year of EMS data along with 2 years of ED data from the pre-deployment time period were compared to 3 years of post-deployment data. The primary outcomes for this study were the number of EMS transports and ED visits.
Results: Average single day event attendance was 176,116 during the 2012-13 time period before the ACS was deployed and 183,544 in the 3 years following. The odds of an EMS transport from the event to the ED decreased in the post-deployment period, OR 0.37 (95% CI = 0.16-0.86; p = 0.01). ED volume increased by 7.23% (p = 0.56) and ED LOS increased by 1.29% (p = 0.97) in the post-deployment period.
Conclusion: This study reports on a unique strategy to improve resource utilization at large mass gatherings and the impact of this strategy on EMS and ED resource utilization. It appears that the addition of an on-site alcohol sobering facility to existing medical support services was associated with a significant decrease in EMS transports but no change in ED resource utilization. Further work is needed to determine if these findings can be reproduced at other mass gatherings.
Keywords: alcohol consumption; cost savings; emergency departments; emergency medical services.