Appeal to Use our Health Facilities Efficiently
The Western Cape Government Health’s Emergency Centres (EC) once again experienced unrelenting pressure over the past weekend (12-14 September 2014). A total of 4 745 patients were seen at ECs across the province, with only 24% of the total cases seen, being considered as life-threatening.
The statistics are still being submitted but the available data paints a true reflection of this trend, which points toward the inefficient utilisation of health care facilities on weekends. The ECs are the entry points into the public hospitals and therefore face the brunt of the pressure, particularly over weekends, when dealing with motor vehicle accidents and other trauma-related incidents. They are built to perform their core function, which is to render quick and efficient emergency medical care, and are staffed accordingly.
When less-than-urgent cases flood this emergency facility, it causes a reduction in efficiency of both the emergency service and the routine medical care provided. Simply because the facility is not built to deal optimally with non-emergency cases. A total of 76% of cases were triaged as Yellow and Green, (non-life threatening injuries and illnesses), placing additional pressure on our ECs. These patients could have visited a 24 hour Community Health Centre (CHC) in their area where a CHC is located where they could have been assisted much quicker, making more efficient use of the system. One potential reason for this trend could be the perception that using an EC facility results in faster turn-around-time for patients, when often the opposite is the case. While Western Cape Government Health ECs will not refuse medical care to anyone, it is important that the public be well informed in terms of efficient use of resources to ensure maximum efficiency.
Patients are urged to find out the details of their nearest health facility most appropriate for their needs.
Western Cape Minister of Health, Theuns Botha, urged people with health problems that are not life-threatening, to visit their nearest CHC or Clinic. “Our facilities are overburdened, and because of the triage system it is the patients with the non-life threatening state that end up waiting for long hours because the patient whose life is at risk, automatically gets treated immediately. Emergency Centres are for emergencies.”
The patients coming through the doors of the ECs are a reflection of the burden of disease within the larger population; which in itself is a function of upstream factors such as inter-personal violence, road traffic accidents, risk factors for chronic diseases such as smoking, alcohol abuse, lack of exercise and unhealthy diets, substance abuse, lack of proper housing and overcrowding.
Also, Emergency Medical Services (EMS) attended to 1 112 calls over the weekend of which 35% were Priority One calls.
See http://www.westerncape.gov.za/dept/health/facilities for a list of facilities and their hours of operation.