Unconcerned about the open wound on his leg, an elderly patient only has one thought on his mind – alcohol. “Is there any wheat beer?” he asks staff. But despite being just a stone’s throw away from Oktoberfest, there is no beer in Munich’s University Hospital. The closest patients get to alcohol in the hospital on this Saturday night are the paper beer mugs on Oktoberfest-themed bunting, put up by doctors for the world’s largest folk festival.
It is not just the victims of beery brawls arriving at accident and emergency. A red-haired girl in her mid-twenties has to be carried onto a bed after drinking three litres of beer. A handkerchief lies in a bag next to the bed smelling strongly of vomit.
And when the unit gets full, drunks are laid out in two extra rooms. The mattresses are placed on the floor so that they do not fall out of bed.
Downtown in a separate site, further away from Oktoberfest, things are slightly calmer. “Last Thursday was the last time we used the [extra] rooms,” said head of accident and emergency Markus Wörnle.
Many of the cases are dealt with at the Oktoberfest’s medical tent. Only the worst ones come to the hospitals as alcohol only rarely puts a patient in life-and-death situation, says Wörnle. In the hospitals though, staff do have to watch out that the alcohol does not lead to anything worse, like a heart attack.
At reception there is a handwritten list of the blood alcohol content of the Oktoberfest patients. Staff do not enjoy welcoming drunks. Not only because they throw up a lot, and on occasion enjoy urinating in the cubicles, but because they take up beds which are needed for real emergencies.
Salt, glucose and an injection against nausea is the standard treatment at the Oktoberfest’s medical tent. Two doctors and four carers man the Oktoberfest tent along with six security guards who protect them from aggressive patients.
Back at the hospital thinks are more peaceful. It is midnight and new patients have arrived. On the bed a man with a brown moustache wearing a Bavarian jacket snores, two beds down a diabetes patient in a pink dirndl moans. Nurses have little to laugh about – their night is long, with the last Oktoberfest patients tending to arrive at 6.30am.
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