E-scooter injuries requiring surgeries cost nearly $20,000 per person to treat - Auckland DHB

Auckland DHB estimates it costs nearly $20,000 to treat each patient who requires surgery after getting injured riding an e-scooter.

Doctors from the DHB's orthopedic unit looked over the data from October 15, 2018 to February 22, 2019 and tallied up all of the surgeries performed on injured scooter riders for a report published in the New Zealand Medical Journal.

There were 23 operations in total on 21 patients. All were on broken bones, mostly to ankles, legs and arms. 

Some of them were so severe the report says they were usually seen in motor vehicle accidents or falls from a large height.

"E-scooters are not only causing increased injuries necessitating surgery, but perhaps more noteworthy, is the severity of these injuries, manifesting the destructive forces possible with their use. 

"The complexity of some of these operations reflected in the prolonged operating times."

Based on the costs of anaesthetic, theatres, staff, implants, time in hospital and lost income, each injury cost an average of $19,282.  It's estimated that more than $400,000 was spent in less than five months. 

Authors said there's an added cost too in the amount of time staff need to spend working on e-scooter injuries rather than looking at other patients.

"The increased burden on acute operating time (54 hours, 36 minutes) lengthens the waiting times for other patients requiring acute operations." 

During the study period, a further 34 patients needed surgery for accidents on bikes, 20 for accidents on motorbikes, 11 for skateboards and 10 for mopeds.

The data collected excluded injuries caused by cars. 

Of the 21 patients studied, almost all were on Lime e-scooters. Two were on privately owned scooters.

Fourteen of the riders reported crashing due to loss of control while travelling at maximum speed or getting the wheel caught on an uneven surface.

Just over half of the patients were male and most of the injuries were sustained on weekdays. Just under 43 percent of crashes occurred between 6pm to 12am. Only 4.7 percent took place between 2pm and 5pm.

The report's authors suggested implementing changes to the scooters' designs to increase stability and decrease speed, as well as restricting availability during times when the most injuries occurred.

E-scooter safety has been a hot topic since Lime rental scooters were introduced in October last year. They were temporarily taken off the streets on February 22 after concerns were raised about brake failures.

They were returned to the streets a few weeks later after Lime was able to prove to Auckland Council the issue had been resolved and the scooters were safe. 

Lime was the only scooter company operating in Auckland during the study, two more have since popped up, Flamingo and Wave.

A low-speed zone has also been set up in the inner city.