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DROWNING hospitalisations increase dramatically

Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) today released drowning statistics for the months of July and August (fatal) and Hospitalisation (non-fatal) data.  The statistics are at odds with one another, as fatal data reveals a continuation of lower than normal drowning incidents through 2010 to date.  Non-fatal data indicates a rising trend which is worrying for water safety professionals.
WSNZ has expressed concern in recent years at the smokescreen provided by a declining annual drowning toll.  Research indicates that the swim and survival skill levels of New Zealand children are rapidly declining.  WSNZ believes that New Zealanders should take note, and that a nation of children without swim and survival skills will lead to a significantly increased drowning toll in future years. 
Matt Claridge, WSNZ General Manager, comments “the rises in hospitalisations are a significant issue.  Drowning is a terrible way to die.  Worse still are some of the outcomes as a result of surviving an incident best compared to suffocation.  The cost of treatment and rehabilitation is excessive, not to mention the social cost also.”
Claridge states: “the areas of note are Recreational Swimming and Accidental Immersion incidents.  Both combined, contribute to nearly half of all hospitalisations.  It is of real concern when we have 111 hospitalisations in 2003 compared with 155 in 2009. It would be unfortunate if the reductions in deaths are offset by increases in people being admitted to hospital with serious and ongoing health issues such as costly brain injuries resulting from non fatal drowning incidents.”
“Simply put, it is not appropriate for people to be in and around the water if you do not have swim and survival skills. Swimming contributes to an average of 44 New Zealanders ending up in hospital every year because they nearly drowned.”
There were three fatal drowning incidents in each of the months of July and August.  At the end of the month of August there had been 54 drowning deaths compared with the five year average for the same month period (2005-2009) which is 68.
The statistics highlight a dramatic decrease in the drowning of Maori which currently stand at seven compared to a five year average of 16 (2005-2009) for the first eight months of the year. Also of note is the reduction in deaths attributed to accidental immersions. There have been six accidental immersion drowning incidents in 2010 which is well down when compared against the five year average of 19 (2005-2009) from January through to August.
Claridge concludes, “A fundamental change in attitude needs to occur in New Zealand regarding children learning swim and survival skills.  Provision must be made to support large scale initiatives like Swim For Life, that actually make a difference in communities in New Zealand.  Swim For Life is a partnership based project that will support more children learn swim and survival skills in New Zealand.”

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