Research Articles

A cross-sectional profile and outcome assessment of adult patients triaged away from Steve Biko Academic Hospital emergency unit

Andreas Engelbrecht, F. G. du Toit, M. M. Geyser
South African Family Practice | Vol 57, No 3 : May/June| a4166 | DOI: | ©
Submitted: 12 October 2014 | Published: 01 May 2015

About the author(s)

Andreas Engelbrecht, Faculty of Health Sciences, Department of Family Medicine, Division of Emergency Medicine, Steve Biko Academic Hospital, Pretoria, South Africa
F. G. du Toit, Emergency Department, Kloof Hosptital, Pretoria, South Africa
M. M. Geyser, Faculty of Health Sciences, Department of Family Medicine, University of Pretoria, and Head Emergency Unit, Kalafong Hospital, Pretoria, South Africa

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Background: Overcrowding is a global problem in emergency medicine. This study examined an approach to this problem at a central hospital.

Methods: A prospective observational study was done to provide a cross-sectional profile of patients triaged away from the emergency unit (EU) and to evaluate their outcome by telephonic survey.

Results: 549 patients were triaged away during the study period. There was no significant difference in the number of male and female patients in the sample. Female patients were significantly younger than males ( p = 0.0399). The most common complaint was abdominal pain followed by extremity complaints. Females complained more of abdominal pains (OR 1.87, 95% CI [1.13–3.12]; p 0.0094), and males had more extremity complaints (OR 2.42, 95% CI [1.45–4.09]; p  = 0.0003). Only 42 patients were available for telephonic follow-up; 66% of them received care on the same day at another treatment facility. No patients who were available for follow-up had died due to their presenting complaint or needed to be referred back.

Conclusions: The typical patient triaged away was a 40-year-old female from the hospital’s referral area with abdominal pain. This study indicated that the method of triage may be safe to determine which patients can be diverted from a central hospital to a lower level of care. There were various limitations to this study; hence, the findings of this study should be interpreted with caution.


emergency unit (EU); Medical Early Warning Score (MEWS); South African Triage Scale (SATS); triage


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