Dubai, UAE: Residents have been urged to re-think their understanding of emergencies in order to lighten the load and overcrowding at the Rashid Hospital Trauma Centre (RHTC), one of the most reputable emergency centres in the Gulf.
Speaking to Gulf News, senior health officials of the Dubai Health Authority (DHA) said that major life-threatening medical emergencies will be handled by the trauma centre, while minor cases by select primary health centres (PHCs).
In 2012 alone, the trauma centre received 165,000 cases of trauma and polytrauma cases of patients in road accidents, falls and injuries, among others. Of those cases, 70 per cent were non-life-threatening.
For optimum emergency care management, the DHA has introduced the concept of “urgent care” which will be rolled out within its network of 14 PHCs.
By “urgent care”, the authority refers to medical attention for less serious and non-life-threatening injuries. Currently, Nad Al Hamar Primary Centre is the first to offer 24-hour urgent care.
By the end of 2013, three primary centres will be equipped to handle minor injuries. In the future, more centres will follow suit depending on demand and strategic locations.
The intention behind the urgent-care approach in PHCs is better geographical access, shorter waiting time and lower cost, which in turn, reduces the strain on the trauma centre.
The approach also takes into account the population growth vis-a-vis capacity.
The trauma centre, which currently operates at full capacity, and which has a disaster management plan, handles major cases like chest pain, overdoses, breathing difficulties, allergic reactions and serious injuries as well as minor cases like sprains, strains, insect and animal bites, wound infections and small burns and scalds.
Dr Mo’en Fikri, clinical director of the trauma centre, said: “Seventy per cent of our cases are minor and do not need emergency staff and resources.”
He explained that though the existing level of medical care at the trauma centre isn’t being compromised, non-urgent patients are clogging up the emergency care of life-threatening cases.
“If an injury is not serious, patients should visit units within PHCs so emergency staff at the trauma centre can concentrate on patients with serious conditions,” he said.
He said by redirecting minor cases to PHCs, the authority can maximise emergency care and use the available emergency resources to its optimum capacity.
On the subject of re-thinking emergencies, Dr Fikri said residents need to learn not to rely on the trauma centre for minor medical needs.
To implement the new approach, he said that the authority is working closely with local responders like the police and fire services and the Dubai Corporation for Ambulance Services (DCAS).
He said the triage system is followed by paramedics when they respond to an emergency call. (The triage five-level system prioritises patients based on the severity of their condition with level one being most urgent and level five being least urgent.)
“Paramedics are trained to identify patients based on the triage system. So if a patient has a minor injury, the ambulance will be diverted to a primary health centre, and not to a hospital emergency department.
“Under the triage system those who are stable and either drive themselves or are brought by family and friends tend to be level four and five. Whereas those who are rushed in by ambulances are level one and two with cases such as heart attacks, stroke or people experiencing breathing difficulties,” said Dr Fikri.
Elaborating on how to understand a medical emergency, Dr Gulam Naroo, senior specialist in emergency medicine at Rashid Hospital, Dubai, said residents should be vigilant.
“A few warning signs and symptoms of an emergency are difficulty in breathing, fainting, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest or upper abdominal pain, changes in vision, difficulty speaking, confusion, uncontrolled bleeding, severe or persistent vomiting or diarrhoea, coughing or vomiting blood and/or suicidal feelings,” he said.
“Flu, fever, sinus attack or minor burns are not emergencies. If it’s not serious, don’t go to the emergency,” he added.
© Gulf NewsDec 2013