A descriptive analysis of the effect of the national COVID-19 lockdown on the workload and case mix of patients presenting to a district-level emergency centre in Cape Town, South Africa
Background. The global COVID-19 pandemic caused many countries to institute nationwide lockdowns to limit the spread of the disease.
Objectives. To describe the effect of the national COVID-19 lockdown in South Africa (SA) on the workload and case mix of patients presenting to a district-level emergency centre.
Methods. The electronic patient tracking and registration database at Mitchells Plain Hospital, a district-level hospital in Cape Town, was retrospectively analysed. The 5-week lockdown period (27 March - 30 April 2020) was compared with a similar period immediately before the lockdown (21 February - 26 March). A comparison was also made with corresponding time periods during 2018 and 2019. Patient demographics, characteristics, diagnoses and disposition, as well as process times, were compared.
Results. A total of 26 164 emergency centre visits were analysed (8 297 in 2020, 9 726 in 2019, 8 141 in 2018). There was a reduction of 15% in overall emergency centre visits from 2019 to 2020 (non-trauma 14%, trauma 20%). A 35% decrease was seen between the 2020 lockdown period and the 5-week period before lockdown (non-trauma 33%, trauma 43%), and the reduced number of visits stayed similar throughout the lockdown period. The median age increased by 5 years during the 2020 lockdown period, along with an 8% decrease in patients aged <12 years. High-acuity patients increased by 6% and the emergency centre mortality rate increased by 1%. All process times were shorter during the lockdown period (time to triage –24%, time to consultation –56%, time to disposition decision –29%, time in the emergency centre –20%).
Conclusions. The SA national COVID-19 lockdown resulted in a substantial decrease in the number of patients presenting to the emergency centre. It is yet to be seen how quickly emergency centre volumes will recover as lockdown measures are eased.
C Hendrikse, Division of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, South Africa; Emergency centres, Mitchells Plain and Heideveld hospitals, Cape Town, South Africa
M Parak, Emergency centres, Mitchells Plain and Heideveld hospitals, Cape Town, South Africa
D J van Hoving, Division of Emergency Medicine, Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences, Stellenbosch University, Cape Town, South Africa
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Date published: 2020-10-12
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