The role of triage to reduce long waiting times in primary health care clinics
Worldwide, patients who visit health-care facilities generally have to wait very long to be attended by physicians and professional nurses. In South Africa, the Cape Triage Score system was implemented with great success in Emergency departments in the Cape Metropole. In primary health-care clinics the concern is that patients have to wait too long for service delivery, even if they are very ill and need hospitalisation. In this research study the role of triage in reducing waiting times in primary health-care clinics was examined. The Cape Triage Score system that was used in Emergency departments in the private sector and also in public hospitals was adapted for a pilot intervention study. This was done to determine if the utilisation of this system can reduce the waiting times of patients visiting primary health-care clinics. The researcher utilised a quantitative design with an intervention, after measuring the baseline waiting time. The strategies applied included an exploratory, descriptive and contextual strategy. The study was carried out in three steps according to the objectives set for the study. Firstly, the baseline assessment of the current waiting times in two PHC clinics in a sub-district of the North West Province was done. A waiting-time survey checklist was used to determine the baseline waiting time of patients visiting primary health-care clinics. These waiting-time survey checklists consisted of a few components that assessed different aspects of waiting time. The second objective was to explore and describe literature in order to understand primary health-care waiting times, triage and related constructs. The third objective was to pilot an adapted Cape Triage Score system to determine if the intervention contributed to reducing waiting times for patients visiting primary health-care clinics. Data was analysed according to Cohen’s effect sizes. The comparison between the baseline waiting times and pilot intervention waiting-time assessment was done according to Cohen’s effect sizes. The analysis of the data indicated a practical significance for the component where the pilot Cape Triage Score system was applied, as patients were referred to the physician and professional nurse according to the severity of their condition. The outcome of the study indicated no reduction in the overall waiting time of patients visiting primary health-care clinics due to the different components of the waiting-time survey checklist. Finally, the research was evaluated, limitations were identified and recommendations were stipulated for nursing practice, education, research and policy.
- Health Sciences