Interface between residential aged care facilities and a teaching hospital emergency department in Western Australia

Judith C Finn, Leon Flicker, Eileen Mackenzie, Ian G Jacobs, Daniel M Fatovich, Shelley Drummond, Michelle Harris, D'Arcy C D J Holman and Peter Sprivulis
Med J Aust 2006; 184 (9): 432-435.


Objective: To estimate the appropriateness of emergency department (ED) presentations by people aged ≥ 65 years living in residential care facilities.

Design, setting and participants: Retrospective cohort study of older residents of residential care facilities who presented to the ED of the Royal Perth Hospital, Western Australia, between January and June 2002. Data were reviewed by an expert clinical panel.

Main outcome measures: Appropriateness of ED presentation, presenting complaint, involvement of a general practitioner/locum doctor prior to transfer, proportion of patients admitted to hospital from the ED, survival to discharge.

Results: 541 residents aged ≥ 65 years were transferred by ambulance to the ED, comprising 8.3% of all ED presentations of people in this age group. The mean age of the study cohort was 83.7 years (SD, 7.0 years), of which 68% were women. Of the 541 presentations, 326 (60%) resulted in hospital admission, and of these, 276 (85%) survived to hospital discharge. Musculoskeletal disorders accounted for 25% of all presentations, and 22% were falls-related; pneumonia (11% of presentations) was the single largest presenting complaint. ED attendance was deemed “inappropriate” for 71/541 cases (13.1%; 95% CI, 10.5%–16.2%); in only 25% of ED presentations was a GP/locum doctor involved prior to transfer.

Conclusions: The majority of ED presentations by aged care residents were considered to be appropriate, but there was scope for improvement in coordinating care between the hospital ED and residential care institutions.

  • Judith C Finn1
  • Leon Flicker1,2
  • Eileen Mackenzie1,2
  • Ian G Jacobs1
  • Daniel M Fatovich1,2
  • Shelley Drummond2
  • Michelle Harris3
  • D'Arcy C D J Holman1
  • Peter Sprivulis1

  • 1 University of Western Australia, Perth, WA.
  • 2 Royal Perth Hospital, Perth, WA.
  • 3 Catherine McAuley Nursing Home, Perth, WA.



We would like to thank Ms Anne Burvill (previously Director of Nursing at Hamersley Nursing Home) for her involvement with our project in its initial stages, and St John Ambulance (Western Australia) for their assistance in facilitating the research. Our study was funded by a grant from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

Competing interests:

None identified.

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