Description of an internal medicine outreach consultant appointment in western KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, 2007 to mid-2014

Robert Ian Caldwell, Bernhard Gaede, Colleen Aldous


This is a description of an internal medicine outreach appointment in western KwaZulu-Natal Province (KZN), South Africa (SA), from 2007 to mid-2014, facilitated by the transport services of the Red Cross Air Mercy Service (AMS) and funded by the KZN Department of Health. The hospital visits represented ‘multifaceted’ as opposed to ‘simple’ outreach. The AMS database of outreach visits was analysed according to frequencies of visits, number of patient contacts and number of contacts with medical personnel. A brief history of the outreach visits is given and their nature described. From January 2007 to the end of June 2014, the outreach physician undertook 481 hospital visits and visited seven hospitals (out of 21) more than 40 times each. A total of 3 340 medical personnel contacts were made, and 5 239 patients were seen. Other internal medicine specialists undertook an additional 199 visits, during which they made 1 157 personnel contacts and saw 2 020 patients. The combined total was therefore 680 visits undertaken, 4 497 medical personnel contacts made and 7 259 patients seen. The appointment of a dedicated outreach consultant for a particular discipline together with a reliable air and road transport system was successful in providing access to specialist care in rural settings. This strategy could be recommended throughout SA. Further studies would be required in order to assess outcomes. 

Authors' affiliations

Robert Ian Caldwell, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Bernhard Gaede, Department of Family Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa; Centre for Rural Health, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

Colleen Aldous, School of Clinical Medicine, University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban, South Africa

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Outreach; Internal medicine

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2015;105(5):353-356. DOI:10.7196/SAMJ.9173

Article History

Date submitted: 2014-11-15
Date published: 2015-05-27

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