Setting: Two closed camps in Hong Kong for Vietnamese refugees.
Objective: To determine the referral times by clinicians (doctor's delay) of cases of tuberculosis (TB) from refugee camp clinics to the hospital/chest clinic.
Design: Retrospective case-note study of 97 Vietnamese patients receiving treatment for tuberculosis.
Results: The sites of TB were pulmonary (n = 61), glandular (n = 15), pleural effusion (n = 15), and other (n = 6). The median referral time was 18 days (range 0-417). Median consultations numbered three (range 1-16). Fifty-three (54.6%) patients were prescribed antibiotics. Thirty-nine (40%) patients were referred within 10 days; of these, 18 were referred the same day. These 39 patients were less likely to have received antibiotics (9/39 [23.1%] vs 44/58 [75.9%], relative risk [RR] 0.3 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.17-0.55), but were equally likely to have been physically examined (RR 0.66, 95%CI 0.39-1.1). Sixteen (16.5%) patients were referred after 90 days. They attended the clinic more often (median attendances 6.5 vs 3, P = 0.0002), and were prescribed more antibiotic courses (mean antibiotic prescriptions 1.6 vs 0.7, P = 0.03).
Conclusion: Referral times by these clinicians varied widely, with long delays for approximately 60% of patients. Guidelines pertinent to primary care clinicians are needed to heighten their awareness of tuberculosis to prevent referral delays and subsequent TB treatment.