‘Telephone Triage’: a possible means of managing the after-hours patient load at primary health care facilities in South Africa

  • A A Adeniji Stellenbosch University
  • L H Mabuza Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University
Keywords: community health centre, emergency department, telephone triage


The rate at which routine patients are using the emergency department (ED) as a path to enter into the healthcare system in South Africa’s community healthcare facilities and district hospitals is alarming. The increasing number of acutely presenting, less stable and routine patients are being left to the care of a reduced number of health carers after hours, at weekends and during public holidays. This circumstantial disproportionality forms the breeding ground for poor patient care, healthcare workers’ burnout and inappropriate use of referral pathways. Not all the patients occupying the ED waiting rooms actually need emergency care. A sizeable number of patients in the waiting line are routine cases that could wait without any undesirable clinical outcomes. This opinion paper looks into the use of telephones to control after-hours patient loads at primary health care facilities in South Africa.

Full text of the research articles are available online at www.medpharm.tandfonline.com/ojfp

S Afr Fam Pract 2018; DOI: 10.1080/20786190.2018.1504863

Author Biographies

A A Adeniji, Stellenbosch University

Division of Family Medicine and Primary Care, Stellenbosch University; and Specialist Family Physician, Ceres Hospital, Witzenberg Substructure, Ceres, South Africa

L H Mabuza, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University

Department of Family Medicine and Primary Health Care, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, Pretoria, South Africa