Easing the strain on a pediatric tertiary care center: use of a redistribution system

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007 Sep;161(9):870-6. doi: 10.1001/archpedi.161.9.870.


Objective: To evaluate the ability of a regionalized system to safely transfer patients requiring admission from a referral center to either regional or community hospitals.

Design: Cohort study of children requiring admission. Following transfer, a questionnaire was administered to eligible caregivers. Subsequent emergency department (ED) use was assessed by comparing children who were transferred with those who were not.

Setting: The Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, from April 1, 2003, through March 31, 2004.

Participants: Caregivers of 371 children who underwent transfer from a tertiary care center ED to either a regional or a community hospital were eligible; 344 were contacted. Two hundred fifty-three children for whom transfer was considered but was not performed served as a comparison group. Intervention Questionnaire administered to caregivers, combined with database review.

Main outcome measures: Failure of the transfer process, caregiver satisfaction, and future tertiary care center ED use.

Results: Five children experienced intravenous access problems, and 4 children experienced delayed antibiotic administration. Caregiver satisfaction was 92.3% with the transfer process and 84.4% with the care at the receiving hospital. Forty-seven percent of caregivers indicated that they would agree to a similar transfer in the future. Two years later, fewer transferred children (39.9%) than those who were not transferred (49.6%) had revisited the tertiary care center ED (odds ratio, 1.52; 95% confidence interval, 1.10-2.10). The mean number of visits was unchanged (95% confidence interval of the difference, -0.44 to 0.21 visits).

Conclusions: Although we found the redistribution program to be safe, caregivers stated a preference not to be transferred again. The redistribution system did not substantially alter tertiary care center ED use.

MeSH terms

  • Caregivers
  • Child
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Hospitals, Community / organization & administration*
  • Hospitals, Pediatric / organization & administration*
  • Humans
  • Length of Stay
  • Ontario
  • Patient Transfer / organization & administration*
  • Regional Medical Programs*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Surveys and Questionnaires