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.

Demographics, Emergency medicine, South Africa, Violence,
International Journal of Emergency Medicine (Print)
Article in press - dd September 2010
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