There’ll be more medics at music festivals across Sydney this long weekend with authorities encouraging youngsters to seek help early as they try and stop people dying from drug overdoses.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard on Tuesday announced the government would pay for the extra critical care doctors, nurses and paramedics at the Electric Gardens, Rolling Loud Australia and Hardcore Til I Die music festivals.
There’ll also be a media campaign rolled out encouraging people to get help early if they feel unwell.
“Expert health staff will be there to look after you … you will not be reported to the police as a result of looking for medical attention,” Mr Hazzard told reporters.
But the coalition is still refusing to consider pill testing at festivals despite five deaths in as many months in NSW.
“The clear message is don’t use drugs at music festivals,” the minister said at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.
“It (pill testing) encourages young people to focus on drug composition rather than the dangers.”
Taxpayers will foot the bill for the additional medical support at “high-risk festivals” until March when organisers will have to step up, Mr Hazzard added.
NSW Health is also working with DanceWize – a harm-reduction group – to offer confidential advice on drug taking.
“When you take MDMA your body temperature will increase and can cause your organs to shut down,” chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant said in a statement on Tuesday.
“Dancing and hot weather can make this happen more quickly.”
The NSW coroner is examining the deaths of five young people at festivals since mid-September. It’s thought MDMA was a factor in each case.
A pill testing demonstration was held at the Ted Noffs Foundation in Sydney on Tuesday.
Emergency doctor David Caldicott, who led Australia’s first trial at Groovin the Moo music festival in Canberra in April 2018, said testers always warned about the dangers of taking illicit drugs.
“The first thing we say to people is if you want to stay safe today you shouldn’t use any drugs,” Dr Caldicott said.
Chief executive Matt Noffs accused the NSW premier of deliberately misleading the public about the evidence surrounding pill testing.
Gladys Berejiklian has rejected testing, arguing there’s not enough evidence to show it saves lives.
“It’s lies,” Mr Noffs told reporters on Tuesday.
“I made sure that she received the evidence again. So she’s lying to us. She’s making us look like fools and it’s really disrespectful.”
Tony Trimingham, who founded Family Drug Support after his son died of a heroin overdose in the mid-1990s, was more sympathetic.
“I know (Ms Berejiklian) has a good heart,” Mr Trimingham told AAP.
“She’s supported injecting facilities in the past.”
Ms Berejiklian was invited to attend the Noffs demonstration but declined.
Australian Associated Press