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The changing role of the emergency department : an analysis of emergency department utilization at Lions Gate Hospital Lakes, Ronald William

Abstract

The emergency department of Lions Gate Hospital was studied both in regard to the patients' current visit to this facility and in regard to the patients' other sources of ambulatory medical care. The objectives of the study were: (1) to understand why patients seek care at Lions Gate's emergency department; (2) to discover how this facility fits into the patients' overall patterns of medical care; and (3) on the basis of the above data, to propose any appropriate changes in the organization of the emergency department. The study was conducted during 14 days in September, 1974; the sampling frame covered all hours of the day and all days of the week. Data were gathered by questionnaires administered in the emergency department, with 85.60 percent of the sample responding. The increase in demand for emergency department services has been attributed to a variety of factors. The present study determined that private physicians and their non-availability are the predominant factors contributing to emergency department usage at Lions Gate Hospital, indicating that this facility is substituting for the wider primary care system. Data pertaining to the patients' overall patterns of medical care provided further evidence that the emergency department has gained wide acceptance by the patients as a source of primary medical care. Moreover, the emergency department was identified as an important and continuing source of care in the medical care patterns of many of its patients. As a result of the above findings, it was recommended that future plans for either the modification or expansion of Lions Gate's emergency department should include the establishment within the department of a walk-in ambulatory clinic. The proposed ambulatory care department, consisting of an emergency centre and primary care clinic, would assist Lions Gate Hospital to fit its services to the medical care needs which its patients exhibit.

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