• Vol. 32 No. 5, 697–702
  • 15 September 2003

Emergency Department Usage by Community Step-Down Facilities – Patterns and Recommendations



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Objective: This study examines the interface between institutional community step-down facilities (CSDFs) and acute hospital’s Emergency Department (ED). It also provides a comprehensive description of the usage of an ED’s services by CSDFs in its vicinity.

Materials and Methods: This is a prospective 12-week observational study conducted in the Accident and Emergency Department of Changi General Hospital in Singapore. All patients from CSDFs transferred to the department were eligible for the study. Hospital records were used to extract relevant clinical data after admission for the length of stay and final discharge diagnosis.

Results: There was a total of 201 referrals to the ED over the 3-month period. The age of the patients ranged from 32 to 107 years, with a median of 83 years. Ninety-two patients (45.8%) were male residents. There were more referrals from CSDF on weekdays than on weekends. In particular, the number of referrals from CSDFs on Mondays were significantly higher (P <0.05, Poisson regression) than other days of the week. Fifty-one per cent of the ED visits occurred during regular working hours. Eighty-two per cent of the transfers were admitted. The main complaint was shortness of breath with cough, followed by fever and falls. The most common investigation ordered was chest radiograph, followed by electrocardiogram and other radiographs. The most common treatment procedure in the ED was placement of an intravenous line. For those admitted residents, average length of hospital stay was 8.27 ± 8.19 days (median, 5 days). Seventeen patients (10.3%) died within 3 days of admission, while 31 patients (18.8%) stayed less than 3 days. The admitted residents had an average turnaround time (from time of registration to time of leaving the ED and proceeding to ward) of 97.94 minutes. For patients discharged from the ED, the average turnaround time (time from registration to time of leaving the ED) was 177 minutes.

Conclusion: Residents from CSDFs are transferred to the ED for a variety of medical reasons. The most appropriate role of the ED in evaluation of residents of CSDFs is not yet clearly defined. There is increasing need to streamline processes in acute hospitals to cope with an increasing ageing population and to ensure that quality care is delivered to the institutionalised sick.

It is projected that elderly persons will make up 18.4% of Singapore’s population by the year 2030. Currently, there are 5189 residents staying in nursing homes.

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