African Health Sciences

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Assessment of hospital-based adult triage at emergency receiving areas in hospitals in Northern Uganda

Keneth Opiro, Lee Wallis, Martin Ogwang


Background: Limited health service resources must be used in a manner which does “the most for the most”. This is partly achieved through the use of a triage system. Whereas efforts have been made to introduce paediatric triage in Uganda such as Emergency Triage Assessment and Treatment Plus (ETAT+), it is not clear if hospitals have local protocols for adult triage being used in each setting.

Objectives: To determine the presence of existing hospital triage systems, the cadre of staff undertaking triage and barriers to development/improvement of formal triage systems.

Methodology: This was a descriptive cross-sectional study. Acholi sub-region was randomly selected for the study among the three sub-regions in Northern Uganda. The study was conducted in 6 of the 7 hospitals in the region. It was a written self-administered questionnaire.

Results: Thirty-three participants from 6 hospitals consented and participated in the study. Only one hospital (16.7%) of the 6 hospitals surveyed had a formal hospital-based adult triage protocol in place. Only 2 (33.3%) hospitals had an allocated emergency department, the rest receive emergency patients/perform triage from OPD and wards. Lack of training, variation of triage protocols from hospital to another, shortage of staff on duty, absence of national guidelines on triage and poor administrative support were the major barriers to improvement /development of formal triage in all these hospitals.

Conclusion: Formal adult hospital-based triage is widely lacking in Northern Uganda and staff do perform subjective “eyeball” judgments to make triage decisions.

Keywords: Triage, “eyeball” triage, emergency receiving areas, and emergency health conditions

AJOL African Journals Online