Background: Emergency Medicine (EM) in South Africa is in its earliest stages of development. There is a paucity of data about emergency department (ED) patient demographics, epidemiology, consultation and admission criteria and other characteristics. Aims: This information is absolutely necessary to properly guide the development of EM and appropriate emergency care systems. In order to provide this information, we performed a study in a rural hospital in Paarl, 60 km outside Cape Town. Methods: All patients who were seen in the ED between 1 January 2008 and 31 May 2008 were eligible for our research. We designed a cross-sectional descriptive study and retrieved information from a randomized sample of all consecutive patient charts seen during this period using a 40-point questionnaire (see Appendix 1). Results: We investigated 2,446 charts, of which 2,134 were suitable for our research The majority (88.2%) of these patients were self-referred. In our sample, 24.1% were children under 12 years old. Almost 20% of patients had a serious pathological condition or were physiologically unstable; 36.0% of all presentations were trauma related. Besides trauma-related problems, gastrointestinal- (21.9%) and respiratory tract- (12.4%) related problems were most common in the ED; 16.5% of the patients were admitted to a ward. Conclusion: This descriptive epidemiological study provides necessary data that will be used for further needs assessments and for future EM development in Paarl, and can be used as a template in other EDs and hospitals to provide similar data necessary for initial EM development strategy.

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International Journal of Emergency Medicine (Print)
Erasmus MC: University Medical Center Rotterdam

Hanewinckel, R, Jongman, H.P, Wallis, L.A, & Mulligan, T.M. (2010). Emergency medicine in Paarl, South Africa: a cross-sectional descriptive study. International Journal of Emergency Medicine (Print), 1–8. doi:10.1007/s12245-010-0185-9