n South African Medical Journal - Primary care morbidity in Eastern Cape Province : original articles




Primary health care in rural South Africa is predominantly provided by remote clinics and health centres. In 1994, health centres were upgraded and new health centres developed to serve as a health care filter between community clinics and district hospitals.

To describe the spectrum of clinical problems encountered at a new health centre in an area of high economic deprivation and compare this with an adjacent community clinic and district hospital.
Cross-sectional survey. Setting. A rural clinic, health centre and district hospital in Eastern Cape Province, South Africa.
The International Classification of Primary Care-2 (ICPC-2) was used to code data collected over a 13-week period from patients presenting at a community clinic, health centre and district hospital.
Altogether, 4 383 patient encounters were recorded across all three sites. Most contacts at the clinic (97%) and the health centre (80%) were with a nurse. Females over 15 years of age comprised over half of all contacts at health facilities (53%). The most common diagnosis category was respiratory (23%). Cough was the most common symptom. Thirty per cent of children up to 5 years of age were seen for immunisations. Most childhood immunisations (79%) were carried out at the health centre.
Of all the health care facilities surveyed, the health centre had the highest throughput of patients, indicating that the health centre is an efficient filter between the community and hospital. The ICPC-2 can be successfully used to monitor encounters at similar African health care facilities.


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