Introduction: Little is known about the nature of patients presenting to emergency departments (EDs) in South Africa. This study aimed to provide evidence on ED usage in Cape Town by studying patients at four community health centre (CHC) EDs, with details of the severity of their presentation and their disposal.
Methods: A total of 16,392 patients presented in this 8-week prospective observational study, and 15,681 were included in the descriptive data analysis. One-quarter were children.
Results: There were clear and predictable peaks in attendance after 1600 hr and at weekends, with a steady stream of patients presenting overnight. Case severity was evenly distributed between emergency, urgent and routine care. Nearly 10% of patients were referred on to a higher level of care.
Conclusion: The data from this study present a model for staffing and resource allocation. It has implications for the provision of emergency care in CHC EDs.