Cape Town - A local expert on emergency medicine has called for more resources to be allocated to this field, arguing such a move would not only make hospitals more efficient, but could also reduce the incidence of medical emergencies.

Dr Stevan Bruijns, a specialist emergency physician and senior lecturer within the Division of Emergency Medicine at the University of Cape Town, said despite these diseases and injuries being classified as major causes of death and disability in South Africa, most emergency centres were not equipped to deal with life-threatening diseases.

Most hospitals, both in the public and private sectors, relied on ordinary doctors, such as GPs, to deal with the most complex emergencies.

Speaking at the 18th International Conference on Emergency Medicine (Icem), which is being held in Cape Town, Bruijns said not only was the country producing too few emergency medicine specialists, but these experts were not remunerated enough by the healthcare industry locally.

Most ended up emigrating to more developed countries.

While many African states had no emergency specialists, South Africa only started producing them nine years ago.

UCT and Stellenbosch University produced the most emergency doctors in SA.

“If we invest enough on emergency medicine, a third of heart attacks and strokes can be prevented.

“When you have emergency care systems that are working, not only do emergency doctors act as gatekeepers and reduce unnecessary admissions, but with good emergency care, hospitals can also improve their quality of work, become more efficient, and reduce costs of hospitalisation,” he said.

While Western Cape hospitals, including the Khayelitsha Hospital, were taking the lead in emergency medical care through the use of emergency medicine specialists, Bruijns said there was still room for improvement and “we can certainly do better”.

The conference, which is being held in Africa for the first time, has brought together about 2 000 delegates from more than 50 countries.