Reasons why patients with primary health care problems access a secondary hospital emergency centre
The original publication is available at http://www.samj.org.za
Background. Many patients present to an emergency centre (EC) with problems that could be managed at primary healthcare (PHC) level. This has been noted at George Provincial Hospital in the Western Cape province of South Africa. Aim. In order to improve service delivery, we aimed to determine the patient-specific reasons for accessing the hospital EC with PHC problems. Methods. A descriptive study using a validated questionnaire to determine reasons for accessing the EC was conducted among 277 patients who were triaged as green (routine care), using the South African Triage Score. The duration of the complaint, referral source and appropriateness of referral were recorded. Results. Of the cases 88.2% were self-referred and 30.2% had complaints persisting for more than a month. Only 4.7% of self-referred green cases were appropriate for the EC. The three most common reasons for attending the EC were that the clinic medicine was not helping (27.5%), a perception that the treatment at the hospital is superior (23.7%), and that there was no PHC service after-hours (22%). Conclusions. Increased acceptability of the PHC services is needed. The current triage system must be adapted to allow channelling of PHC patients to the appropriate level of care. Strict referral guidelines are needed.