Background: A long length of stay (LOS) in the emergency department (ED) associated with overcrowding has been found to adversely affect the quality of ED care. The objective of this study is to determine whether patients who speak a language other than English at home have a longer LOS in EDs compared to those whose speak only English at home.
Methods: A secondary data analysis of a Queensland state-wide hospital EDs dataset (Emergency Department Information System) was conducted for the period, 1 January 2008 to 31 December 2010.
Results: The interpreter requirement was the highest among Vietnamese speakers (23.1%) followed by Chinese (19.8%) and Arabic speakers (18.7%). There were significant differences in the distributions of the departure statuses among the language groups (Chi-squared=3236.88, P<0.001). Compared with English speakers, the Beta coefficient for the LOS in the EDs measured in minutes was among Vietnamese, 26.3 (95%CI: 22.1-30.5); Arabic, 10.3 (95%CI: 7.3-13.2); Spanish, 9.4 (95%CI: 7.1-11.7); Chinese, 8.6 (95%CI: 2.6-14.6); Hindi, 4.0 (95%CI: 2.2-5.7); Italian, 3.5 (95%CI: 1.6-5.4); and German, 2.7 (95%CI: 1.0-4.4). The final regression model explained 17% of the variability in LOS.
Conclusion: There is a close relationship between the language spoken at home and the LOS at EDs, indicating that language could be an important predictor of prolonged LOS in EDs and improving language services might reduce LOS and ease overcrowding in EDs in Queensland's public hospitals.
Keywords: Emergency department; Language; Length of stay.