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Operational demands on pre-hospital emergency care for burn injuries in a middle-income setting : a study in the Western Cape, South Africa

Allgaier, Rachel L. ; Laflamme, Lucie ; Wallis, Lee A. (2017-01)

CITATION: Allgaier, R. L., Laflamme, L. & Wallis, L. A. 2017. Operational demands on pre-hospital emergency care for burn injuries in a middle-income setting: a study in the Western Cape, South Africa. International Journal of Emergency Medicine, 10(2):1-7, doi:10.1186/s12245-017-0128-9.

The original publication is available at

Publication of this article was funded by the Stellenbosch University Open Access Fund.


ENGLISH SUMMARY : Background: Burns occur disproportionately within low-socioeconomic populations. The Western Cape Province of South Africa represents a middle-income setting with a high rate of burns, few specialists and few burn centres, yet a well-developed pre-hospital system. This paper describes the burn cases from a viewpoint of operational factors important to pre-hospital emergency medical services. Methods: A retrospective, cross-sectional study of administrative and patient records was conducted. Data were captured for all pre-hospital burn patients treated by public Emergency Medical Services over a continuous 12-month period. Data were captured separately at each site using a standardised data collection tool. Described categories included location (rural or urban), transport decision (transported or remained on scene), age (child or adult) and urgency (triage colour). Results: EMS treated 1198 patients with confirmed burns representing 0.6% of the total EMS caseload; an additional 819 potential burn cases could not be confirmed. Of the confirmed cases, 625 (52.2%) were located outside the City of Cape Town and 1058 (88.3%) were transported to a medical facility. Patients from urban areas had longer mission times. Children accounted for 37.5% (n = 449) of all burns. The majority of transported patients that were triaged were yellow (n = 238, 41.6% rural and n = 182, 37.4% urban). Conclusions: Burns make up a small portion of the EMS caseload. More burns occurred in areas far from urban hospitals and burn centres. The majority of burn cases met the burn centre referral criteria.

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