Trends in admissions, morbidity and outcomes at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital, Cape Town, 2004 - 2013

Y Isaacs-Long, L Myer, H J Zar


Background. Routinely collected patient information has the potential to yield valuable information about health systems and population health, but there have been few comprehensive analyses of paediatric admissions at South African (SA) hospitals.

Objectives. To investigate trends in hospitalisation and outcomes at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital (RCWMCH), a major referral hospital for children in the Western Cape and SA. 

Methods. Using routinely collected observational health data from the hospital informatics system, we investigated admissions between 2004 and 2013. Clinical classification software was used to group International Statistical Classification of Diseases and Related Health Problems 10th Revision (ICD-10) codes to rank causes during 2008 - 2013, when ICD-10 codes were widely available. Analyses examined trends in medical and surgical admissions over time. 

Results. There were 215 536 admissions over 10 years of 129 733 patients. Admissions increased by 9.3%, with increases in the general medical wards (5%), medical specialty wards (74%), the burns unit (73%), and the intensive care unit (16%). In contrast, admissions decreased in the trauma unit (21%) and short-stay medical wards (1%). In-hospital mortality decreased by 54% (p-trend <0.001) over 10 years. Diarrhoea and lower-respiratory tract illness were the most common causes for medical admissions, although admissions and deaths due to these conditions decreased between 2008 and 2013, which coincided with the national introduction of related vaccines. Similarly, tuberculosis admissions and deaths decreased over this period. These trends could be owing to a concurrent decrease in HIV comorbidity (p-trend <0.001). Trauma was the most common reason for surgical admission. 

Conclusion. Paediatric in-hospital mortality decreased consistently over a decade, despite an overall increase in admissions. Pneumonia and diarrhoea admissions decreased markedly over a 6-year period, but remain the most important causes of hospitalisation.

Authors' affiliations

Y Isaacs-Long, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

L Myer, Division of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Centre for Infectious Diseases Epidemiology and Research, School of Public Health and Family Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa

H J Zar, Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital and MRC Unit on Child and Adolescent Health, University of Cape Town, South Africa

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Database research; Hospital discharge; Admission trends; Child health; South Africa; Child mortality; Child morbidity; Indicators of child health

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2017;107(3):219-226. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2017.v107i3.11364

Article History

Date submitted: 2017-02-27
Date published: 2017-02-27

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