"How long before I see a doctor?" An analysis of triage-to-doctor waiting times in an emergency department in a Johannesburg private hospital

Piccolo, Christian
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Background: Private health care emergency departments (EDs) are vital components of health care systems and have become increasingly popular due to their accessibility, convenience and proficiency. This popularity has led to overcrowding which in turn has led to increased patient waiting times. Lengthy waiting times have been shown to be a common cause of patient dissatisfaction. Patients, however, often overestimate the passage of time which results in unwarranted dissatisfaction. Study objectives: The purpose of this study was to establish the actual waiting times experienced by patients from the time of triage to first doctor contact at the Dogwood Hospital Emergency Department. Design: A retrospective cross-sectional descriptive study was undertaken at the Dogwood Hospital Emergency Department from 1 st January 2009 to the 30th August 2009. All patients (adults and children) of all priority who sought medical attention at the Dogwood Hospital ED were included in the study. Main Results: Priority 3 patients waited the longest out of all patients, particularly on weekday mornings. Overall this study revealed that for 70% of patients the triage-to-doctor waiting time was less than 1 hour. Almost 24% of patients waited between one and two hours and about six percent waited more than two hours. Conclusions: Most patients in this study were seen by a doctor within the target times set by the South African Triage Group (SATG). Numerous studies suggest that patients believe that the acceptable triage-to-doctor waiting time is approximately one hour. In this study 30% of patients waited longer than one hour.
A research report presented to the Division of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of the Witwatersrand In partial fulfilment of the degree Master of Science in Medicine (Emergency Medicine)