Psychiatric emergency service users at Groote Schuur Hospital, Cape Town

Don AB Wilson, Alan J Flisher, Mark Welman


Objective. To document and compare the characteristics of patients assessed at a psychiatric emergency service (PES) during April and May of 1988 and 1998.

Design. Two cross-sectional surveys.

Setting. Groote Schuur Hospital (GSH), Cape Town.

Subjects. Patients assessed at the PES, GSH.

Outcome measures. These were occupational status, referral source, distance travelled to get to the hospital, and diagnosis.

Results. Nine hundred and twenty-five patients made 1 081 visits to the unit during a 2-month period in 1988, while during a similar period in 1998, 364 patients made 477 visits. In the latter period the patients were significantly more likely to be skilled workers or students/scholars, to be referred from within GSH or other health facilities, to have travelled less than 10 km to get to the hospital, and to be suffering from a mood disorder or suicidality (and less likely to be suffering from a substance use disorder).

Conclusions. The differences between the two time periods indicate that changes in policy during the period 1988 - 1998 may have impacted on the patient profile at the PES at GSH. It is important to document such changes with a view to informing service planning for both tertiary referral centres and other levels of care.

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Submitted: 07 August 2008
Published: 01 December 2005

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South African Journal of Psychiatry    |    ISSN: 1608-9685 (PRINT)    |    ISSN: 2078-6786 (ONLINE)