Cost of intensive care services at a central hospital in South Africa

S Mahomed, O H Mahomed


Background. Intensive care services are one of the largest cost drivers in a hospital. Increasing life expectancy and comorbidities have resulted in an increased need for intensive care beds.

Objectives. To conduct a cost analysis of intensive care services at a central hospital in the public sector in South Africa (SA).

Methods. A retrospective cost analysis for the 2015/16 financial year was conducted across two intensive care units (ICUs), a trauma ICU (10 beds) and a combined ICU for neurosurgery, medicine and surgery (18 beds). A mixed-methods costing approach was used based on the availability of data. The bottom-up approach was used to calculate the cost of clinical support, pharmaceuticals, consumables and human resources. The top-down approach was used to allocate the cost of equipment and goods and services.

Results. There were 544 admissions resulting in 4 987 inpatient days during the study period. The total estimated inpatient cost across the two ICUs was ZAR114 055 104, with a cost per patient day of ZAR22 870. The combined ICU cost per patient day was 58% higher than the cost per patient day in the trauma ICU (ZAR26 954 v. ZAR17 021). The mean cost per admission was ZAR157 883 in the trauma ICU and ZAR245 087 in the combined ICU. Human resources costs were the highest ICU cost driver (55%), followed by direct patient activity costs (medical consumables, pharmaceuticals, laboratory tests, radiology and blood products), which contributed 24%.

Conclusions. This is the first reported cost analysis of intensive care services in SA. Our cost per patient day was higher than that reported in other lower-income countries, but lower than that in high-income countries. These costs vary owing to the different types of ICUs, wide spectrum of disease presentation and availability of diagnostic and treatment options. This study provides useful data that could assist in the planning and provision of intensive care services.


Authors' affiliations

S Mahomed, School of Laboratory Medicine and Medical Sciences, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

O H Mahomed, School of Nursing and Public Health, College of Health Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Cost analysis; Intensive care; Public sector

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2019;109(1):35-39. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.2018.v109i1.13268

Article History

Date submitted: 2018-12-13
Date published: 2018-12-13

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