Medical school to revolutionise emergency care

28 January 2013 - 02:09 By MHLABUNZIMA MEMELA
File photo.
File photo.
Image: Gallo Images/Thinkstock

KwaZulu-Natal has launched a plan to reduce the number of deaths of people admitted to hospitals in urgent need of medical care.

For years the provincial health department has struggled to stop patients dying while waiting to be treated.

The plan was devised by the University of KwaZulu-Natal Medical School's acute care and trauma group - a multi-disciplinary coalition of specialists affiliated to the school.

Medical school head Professor Richard Hift believes the plan, which is supported by the provincial health department and the Health Professionals' Council, will bring about significant change for the better in the medical care provided in hospitals' emergency rooms.

Hift said it would lead to the standardisation of emergency medicine.

"Given the scale of the problem, it is absolutely essential that we set up a strong research and teaching programme . We will be saving money and lives, and reducing morbidity with our partner, the department of health," he said.

Hift said registrars would train in the emergency units at academic hospitals, which would also have a research function.

He said Edendale Hospital and Ngwelezana Hospital, both in Pietermaritzburg, were developing centres of excellence in emergency care.

"King Edward VIII Hospital, Durban, will be used for training registrars in trauma and acute care once its emergency care unit has been restructured.

"At the moment, Inkosi Albert Luthuli Central Hospital is the only one in the province that has a specialised trauma unit," he said.

The head of Ngwelezane Hospital's trauma unit, Dr Darryll Wood, said provincial hospitals needed restructuring of their casualty units, especially in respect of specialist input.

He said the emergency units of many hospitals were often disorderly.

"One of the initiative's objectives will be to implement a safe and simple system that works."

Wood said emergency medicine covered all emergency conditions affecting patients who were acutely ill, "whether they are physically injured or need emergency care for life-threatening conditions such as heart attacks, kidney failure or asthma".

"Ultimately, junior doctors and nurses working in hospital casualty units will be overseen by doctors who have specialised training in [dealing with] trauma and providing acute care."