When chronic conditions become emergencies – a report from regional Queensland

Linton R. Harriss, Fintan Thompson, Arindam Dey, Jane Mills, Kerrianne Watt, Robyn McDermott

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Objective: To describe chronic conditions and injuries as a proportion of total emergency presentations to a large public hospital in regional Queensland, and to investigate differences in presentation rates associated with Indigenous status. Design: Cross-sectional analysis using Emergency Department Information System data between 1 July 2012 and 30 June 2014. Setting: Regional Queensland, Australia. Participants: A total of 95 238 emergency presentations were generated by 50 083 local residents living in the 10 statistical local areas (SLAs) immediately around the hospital. Main outcome measures: Emergency presentations for chronic conditions and injuries identified from discharge ICD-10-AM principal diagnosis. Age-standardised presentation rates were calculated using the Australian 2001 reference population. Results: Approximately half of all presentations were for chronic conditions (20.2%) and injuries (28.8%). Two-thirds of all chronic condition presentations were for mental and behavioural disorders (34.6%) and circulatory diseases (33.2%). Head injuries accounted for the highest proportion of injuries (18.9%). Age-standardised rates for major diagnostic groups were consistently higher for Indigenous residents, whose presentations were lower in mean age (95% CI) by 7.7 (7.3–8.1) years, 23% less likely to be potentially avoidable GP-type presentations [RR (95% CI) = 0.77 (0.75–0.80)], 30% more likely to arrive by ambulance [1.31 (1.28–1.33)] and 11% more likely to require hospital admission [1.11 (1.08–1.13)]. Conclusions: Opportunities exist to enhance current coordinated hospital avoidance and primary health services in regional Queensland targeting common mental and circulatory disorders, especially for Indigenous Australians.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)392-401
Number of pages10
JournalAustralian Journal of Rural Health
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Aboriginal
  • chronic disease
  • emergency department
  • health disparity
  • hospital avoidance
  • Indigenous
  • Torres Strait Islander

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