n South African Medical Journal - A review of primary and secondary burn services in the Western Cape, South Africa : research




In 2011, the Department of Health of the Western Cape Province, South Africa, requested a review of current burn services in the province, with a view to formulating a more efficient and cost-effective service. This article considers the findings of the review and presents strategies to improve delivery of appropriate burn care at primary and secondary levels.

Surveys were conducted at eight rural and urban hospitals, two outreach workshops on burn care, four regional hospitals and at least 60 clinics in Cape Town and in the Western Cape as far as Ladismith. A survey on community management of paediatric burns wasalso included in the study.
The incidence of burns was highest in the winter months, more than half of those affected were children, and the majority of burns were scalds from hot liquids. Most burn injuries managed at primary level were minor, with 75% of patients treated by nurse practitioners and discharged. The four regional secondary hospitals managed the majority of moderate to severe burns. There is room for improvement in terms of treatment facilities and consumables at all levels, regional hospitals being particularly restricted in terms of outdated equipment, a shortage of intensive care unit beds, and difficulties in transferring patients with major burns to a burns unit when indicated.
The community management of paediatric burns was satisfactory, although considerable delays in transfer and insufficient pain control hampered appropriate care. A great need for ongoing education at all levels was identified. Ten strategies are presented that could, if implemented, lead to tangible improvements in the management of burn patients at primary and secondary levels in the Western Cape.


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