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South African Medical Journal

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Utilisation of outpatient services at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital, Cape Town

P. M. Strebel, P.I. Lachman, M.L. Painter, I.A. Stander, J Ireland

Abstract


The demand for outpatient services continues to grow at Red Cross War Memorial Children's Hospital (RCCH). To determine current utilisation patterns, we conducted a 2-week survey in the outpatient department (OPD). In addition, we reviewed the RCCH Annual Reports for the period 1961 - 1988. Annual outpatient attendances have increased from around 42000 in 1957 to their highest level ever; nearly 350000 in 1988. This steady rise in outpatient attendance was stemmed during the 1970s by the expansion of health services in the greater Cape Town area, in particular the introduction ofday hospitals. In general, blacks are utilising the OPD as a primary community hospital for the treatment of infectious and environmentally induced diseases. In contrast, the white outpatient profile is more characteristic of a tertiary referral centre, with a higher proportion of specialist clinic attendances. The utilisation patterns for coloured children are intermediate. Analysis of the residential address of patients and their presenting diagnoses indicates an urgent demand for primary health care services in the most recently settled and poorest suburbs of Cape Town, many of which are remote from the hospital.




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