Objective: To measure the re-admission rate and the number of preventable re-admissions in a secondary-level South African hospital, and to identify factors predictive of re-admission.
Method: The admission register for the medical wards at Cecilia Makiwane Hospital (CMH) was used to identify re-admitted patients, whose folders were then reviewed. A comparison group of patients who were not re-admitted was randomly generated from the same register.
Results: The re-admission rate for the 7 months ending October 2006 was 8.5% (262/3 083). Patients who were more likely to be re-admitted had chronic respiratory disease (odds ratio (OR) 4.2, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.2 - 14.6), HIV infection (OR 5.0, CI 2.1 - 12.0), were older than 50 years (OR 5.2, CI 2.5 - 10.9), had a first admission of more than 8 days (OR 3.2, CI 1.5 - 6.6) or a booked medical outpatients followup (OR 5.1, CI 2.6 - 10.3). Age distribution of re-admissions was bimodal, with HIV-positive individuals (27.4% overall) accounting for 50% of all admissions younger than 50 years, but only 9.1% of those 50 years or older. In individuals older than 50 years, 42.1% of admissions were due to chronic cardiorespiratory illnesses. Half of re-admissions were judged to be potentially preventable, mainly through improved patient education.
Conclusion: One in 12 general medical patients was readmitted. Chronic diseases and inadequate patient education and discharge planning accounted for the largest group of re-admissions in older patients. Re-admission of HIV/AIDS patients has generated a second peak in younger individuals, and the impact of the antiretroviral roll-out on admission rates warrants further scrutiny.