On-scene discharge by Emergency Care Practitioners – a viable option for South Africa?

Lara Nicole Goldstein, Siyabonga Sibanyoni, Craig Vincent-Lambert


Background: In South Africa, the national public health sector provides healthcare to the majority of the population, yet many hospitals are in a state of crisis. On-scene discharge or patient non-conveyance to hospital by Emergency Care Practitioners (ECP) may serve as a means for patients to access healthcare services while alleviating the burden on the hospitals.
Aim: The aim of this study was to determine the number of patients being transported by ambulance to a public sector Emergency Department (ED) who could have potentially been managed and discharged on-scene by a South African pre-hospital ECP.
Methods: This was a prospective, descriptive and quantitative study of patients brought to the ED by ambulance over a 72-hour weekend period. The medical care that was provided in the ED was compared to the existing ECP scope of practice. The patients’ disposition was also used as a surrogate to determine whether transportation to hospital was required.
Results: A total of 118 patients were transported to the ED by ambulance, and 85 of these patients consented to participate in the study. Overall, 62.4% of these patients were ultimately discharged from the hospital (60.4% of discharged patients being trauma-related). Most of the treatment modalities prescribed for the discharged patients were within the ECP scope of practice.
Conclusion: Pre-hospital on-scene discharge by ECPs may be a mechanism to alleviate hospital overcrowding in a failing public healthcare system. However, if an ambulance service condones the concept of on-scene discharge, they need to implement monitoring strategies to assess the subsequent outcomes for those patients discharged at the scene.

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.24213/1-1-3330


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