General Questions

Upon arrival, by ambulance or other transport, patients will be triaged either in the Triage area or within the Emergency Department itself, depending on the circumstances.

A Triage nurse will perform a short examination, including blood pressure, heart rate and temperature – this is called the Triage process. Based on this, you will be allocated a Triage group: Red, Orange, Yellow or Green. Depending on the group you are placed in, you may need to wait to be taken through to the Emergency Department. However, if you feel your situation has deteriorated, please bring this to the attention of the Triage nurse.

Once you have been taken through to the Emergency Department, you will be seen by another member of the nursing staff and re-evaluated. Thereafter one of the doctors will take your history and perform an examination. The doctor may decide to order tests (such as x-rays or blood tests) and to administer medication in an intravenous line or as an injection, depending on your condition. Once all the test results have been received, the doctor may also review the test results and physical symptoms with an external specialist.

The doctor will then discuss the findings with you and prescribe treatment to be followed at home, or recommend admission to the hospital, or referral to a specialist. Please make use of this time to ask any questions that you might have about your condition or treatment, things to watch out for at home, whether you need sick leave and when to return to the Emergency Department or your doctor for follow-up.

Triage is the process of prioritising patients in Emergency Departments, based on their physical condition and the severity of their injuries. Not all patients who come to an emergency department are in a life-threatening state, so a triage system allows for the most serious patients with severe injuries to receive prompt medical intervention immediately.

In a perfect world, all patients presenting to the Emergency Department would be seen straight away and then discharged or admitted immediately thereafter. However, a first-come-first-served system cannot be utilised in the Emergency Department. The order in which patients are seen is determined by the patient’s triage group (Red, Orange, Yellow or Green), as well as their time of arrival. If you are triaged as non-urgent and there are many other patients with more serious illnesses or injuries, you may have a waiting time that is longer than you might like.

Please note that delays in the Emergency Department are inevitable and dependent on many factors, such as the number of patients and availability of space in the Emergency Department to treat incoming patients.

The availability of enough medical staff is however, seldom a limiting factor and there are mechanisms in place to bring in additional medical staff to assist if necessary.

Despite the delays discussed above, all patients are seen by a doctor as soon as possible.

By its very nature, the Emergency Department is a unique, complex and stressful medical environment and the workload is generally quite high. In order to function efficiently, we enforce a few simple rules in the Emergency Department and your co-operation would be most appreciated. These rules allow us to maintain high standards of patient care and privacy, as well as minimise the emotional impact on patients and their families:

  • Talk quietly in the Emergency Department.
  • Turn off all cell phones as they are noisy and very disruptive.
  • Control your children in and around the Emergency Department to avoid unnecessary injuries.
  • Ask family and friends to wait in the waiting room. Rest assured that should we need their assistance we will find them. Information on your progress can be obtained from the reception or from the nursing staff.
  • Accept that mentally competent adult patients are consulted alone.
  • Accept that we restrict attendance at paediatric consults to the parents/caregiver.
  • Try to be patient and remember that the results of tests and x-rays in addition to the availability of external specialists who may need to be consulted are beyond our control.

Please note that we have adopted a strict zero-tolerance approach to abuse of the staff in the Emergency Department, as per the National Health Act, 2003 (No. 61 of 2003) as recently amended. We will support the prosecution of anyone who threatens or behaves violently towards any member of our staff.

If you are conscious, try to remain calm despite your possible discomfit, in order to clearly help the doctors and nurses to understand your emergency. Courtesy, clear communication and co-operation are always key.

Yes, strict confidentiality of your medical consultation is maintained for your privacy, as per the Health Professions Council of South Africa.

A patient’s diagnosis and/or condition cannot be discussed with, or disclosed to, a third party without the patient’s consent. To this end, no sensitive results will be discussed over the telephone.

Please remember we are obliged to release your information to any third party with whom you may have signed a disclosure agreement (such as your medical aid or insurer).

We are also obliged to release your information on subpoena by the judiciary.

Remember that the doctor in the Emergency Department only sees a single “snapshot” of your condition. If at any stage, you feel you are not recovering steadily or you are deteriorating, you are welcome to return to the Emergency Department for re-evaluation.

Be aware that in light of our confidentiality procedures, we are unable to offer telephonic advice as we simply cannot be sure of a patient’s identity over the phone. Additionally, it is extremely difficult to offer relevant and effective advice without being able to physically reassess your condition. For these reasons, you will be told to return to the Emergency Department if you call in for medical advice.

We are always willing to assist. There is no obligation to return to us in the Emergency Department for a follow-up consultation. We would encourage you to see your own doctor who will have a more holistic and thorough understanding of your general health. They will be able to manage the situation effectively taking all aspects of your medical history into account.

If at all possible, make notes.

Remember to ask the doctor whether there are any specific instructions for the management of your condition and be sure to follow these instructions.

Ask the doctor how long it should take for you to start feeling better and also how long it should take before you recover fully.

Ask the doctor whether you should rest, continue with light activities (or work) or continue with normal activities.

If you’ve been prescribed medication, make sure you understand what you should take and when you should take it. Remember to get the medication from the nearest pharmacy and to take the medication as directed.

Should it be necessary, the doctor will make a recommendation for time to recuperate, which he/she feels is appropriate for your medical situation. Please discuss this matter with the doctor before you leave the Emergency Department. This will be noted in your clinical notes and you will also receive a Medical Certificate with all these details, which you can present to your employers.

Please note that the doctor is under no obligation to issue a sick certificate for any time you have chosen to take off work without discussion and his/her agreement.

You are invited to share your views with us regarding your Emergency Department experience, either via our website contact form or by calling us on the number provided. Your feedback assists us to maintain our high standards and make improvements where necessary. All information you provide will receive the strictest confidentiality and is dealt with by a public officer assigned to your feedback case.

Doctors Nay Wells Hutton Piccolo Incorporated employ highly specialised personnel to assist with Injury on Duty claims. Please see the separate section for more information.