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Original Research

Emergency department demographics at a small Australian rural hospital

Submitted: 16 September 2009
Revised: 14 December 2009
Published: 19 March 2010

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Author(s) : Chen TM, Tescher P.

Citation: Chen TM, Tescher P.  Emergency department demographics at a small Australian rural hospital. Rural and Remote Health (Internet) 2010; 10: 1318. Available: (Accessed 19 October 2017)


Introduction:  The emergency departments (EDs) of Australian rural hospitals are under stress due to a lack of specialty staff and government funding, and the need to serve large geographic catchment areas. Knowledge of the demographics and other details of patients presenting to these EDs provides a way for rural hospitals to tailor their emergency services; however, there are few published studies that supply this information. Objectives: This study aimed to establish patient numbers and demographics for those presenting to the ED of Cobram District Hospital (CDH), a rural hospital in the Australian state of Victoria. Daily and seasonal variations were also assessed, as was the catchment area and triage status of individual patients.
Methods:  Multiple datasets were collected retrospectively from electronic and handwritten databases for 3 financial years (July 2005 to June 2008) for presentations to CDH ED. The data were compared and analysed.
Results:   Approximately 3000 patients presented to CDH ED each year. The catchment of the ED was much greater than expected, with a significant portion of patients (14%) attending from the neighbouring state of New South Wales. Patient numbers increase by 50% during the summer, compared with the winter months. Regarding presentation time, 69% of presentations occur between 12.00 and 24.00, with 3 distinct time periods in each day when most presentations occur. Only 2% of all emergency patients are Australasian Triage Scale categories 1 and 2, while 73% are categories 4 and 5.
Conclusion:  Cobram District Hospital is a small rural hospital with 3000 patients presenting to the ED each year, representing a larger than expected catchment area. An ageing demographic among patients, seasonal variations in numbers and a large proportion of after-hours presentations should be of concern to administrators and policy-makers in planning future resource allocation for this and other similar EDs.

Key words: accident and emergency, Australia, demographics, emergency department.

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