NSW Premier doubles down on pill testing stance following horror drug weekend

In NSW, 25 people were admitted to hospital for drug-related illnesses over the Australia Day long weekend, while another seven were hospitalised in Victoria.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has again pleaded with young people to stop taking illicit drugs after a festival-filled long weekend saw 25 people transferred to hospital for drug-related issues amid an increased medical presence at the events.

Doubling down on the government's position on pill testing, Ms Berejiklian said on Monday she didn't want pill testing to give people a "green light to take these drugs".

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she hopes people are getting the message against drugs.
Source: AAP

"Do not take ecstasy. It can injure you for life or it can kill you," she said.

Earlier NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he believed the debate around pill testing was a "side-show", which has taken the focus away from "reaching out to young people in language they understand about the risks".

Following three music festivals in Sydney over the weekend, Mr Hazzard said a "substantial number" of attendees required medical treatment. 

He said 25 people between the ages of 16 and 25 required transfer to a hospital and 14 required an "extremely high-level medical retrieval response". 

"Young people are actually continuing to take drugs, and continuing to take them at such a level that we had to get 14 of them receiving an extremely high-level medical response," he said.

The majority of hospitalisations took place after Saturday's Hardcore Till I Die festival at Sydney Showground, with the remainder taking place at Rolling Loud, also at Sydney Olympic Park on Sunday and Electric Garden festival at Centennial Park on Saturday. 

All of the people hospitalised are now in a stable condition, with one remaining on life support.

It was the first time the NSW government trialled putting additional medical personnel on the ground at music festivals, following a spate of drug-related deaths across the country that sparked a fresh wave of calls for pill testing.A medical retrieval team - the same team that is tasked with attending the scene of emergencies - was stationed in each festival for the first time in the state, with the NSW government saying the measure was an Australian-first.

NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard has called on young people to take responsibility for their actions when it comes to illicit drugs.
Source: AAP

Five drug-related deaths - Alex Ross-King, 19, Josh Tam, 22, Callum Brosnan, 19, Joseph Pham, 23 and Diana Nguyen, 21 - are now the focus of an NSW Coroner’s Court inquest.

"We really shouldn't have to have so many of our public servants, our nurses, our doctors, our paramedics and our police there just to make sure you are having a good time and are safe," Mr Hazzard said.

"I'm asking young people to reflect on what is being done to try and keep you safe because of your own actions."

Dr Sarah Coombes of NSW Ambulance Service said "hard decisions" would have to be made about what level of medical support is provided within festivals in the future. 

"A number of patients that were treated likely would not have survived this event, if the increased medical support had not been on site," she said.

Mr Hazzard estimated that the additional measures, including a new government information campaign, has cost the government about half a million dollars over the past two weeks.

From March 1, Mr Hazzard said he would recommend strongly that festival organisers would bear the additional costs. 

In Victoria, an additional seven people were hospitalised after suspected drug overdoses at Rainbow Serpent Festival this weekend. 

Published 28 January 2019 at 12:46pm, updated 28 January 2019 at 12:50pm
Presented By Maani Truu