Emergency care visits at a South African hospital: Implications for healthcare services and policy

Jacob A. Adewole, John M. Tumbo, Henry I. Okonta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND:  A robust knowledge on the pattern of use of emergency care resources not only serves as an indicator of universal access to care but also provides a basis for quality improvement within the health system. This study was undertaken to describe the pattern of emergency room visits at Brits District Hospital (BDH) in North West province, South Africa. The objectives of this study were to determine the sociodemographic characteristics of emergency department (ED) users and other patterns of ED use. METHODS:  This was a cross-sectional descriptive study that was conducted at a district hospital. All patients who reported for emergency care in the ED in 2016 were eligible for the study. Data were extracted and analysed from a systematic sample of 355 clinical notes and hospital administrative records. RESULTS:  The age group that visited the ED most frequently (25.3%) was 25-34 years old. A high proportion of the ED users (60%) were self-referred, and only 38% were transported by the emergency medical response services (EMRS). Few (5.6%) presentations were of a non-urgent nature. Trauma-related conditions accounted for the most frequent presentation at the ED (36.5%). CONCLUSION:  Although most ED users were self-referred, their clinical presentations were appropriate and underscore the need for policy strategies to reduce the burden of trauma in the catchment populationContribution: The study findings may have an impact on future health policies by providing decision-makers with baseline information on the pattern of use of ED resources, ensuring better resource deployment and greater access to care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)e1-e6
JournalSouth African family practice : official journal of the South African Academy of Family Practice/Primary Care
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2024


  • accident and emergency
  • acuity
  • disposal
  • district hospital
  • triage
  • visits


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