To obtain information about patient, staff and organization characteristics of Emergency Departments in the Netherlands, and evaluate the changes between 1996 and 1999.
The heads of the Emergency Departments of all hospitals in the Netherlands were sent a questionnaire concerning patient, staff, and organization characteristics, as well as questions about intended future developments. The results were compared with data obtained from a comparable questionnaire in 1996.
In the Netherlands, 113 hospitals (113/126) have an Emergency Department; 105/113 returned the questionnaire (93%). Ninety-two percent of the hospitals reported an increase in annual Emergency Department census and in the number of self-referred patients. The number of Emergency Departments staffed by only surgical residents decreased (52% in 1996 versus 41% in 1999), whereas the number of hospitals employing emergency physicians increased (24% in 1996 versus 45% in 1999). In 92% of the hospitals, nurses who work in the Emergency Department receive specific training. For emergency physicians, a specific training programme is not available, and in fact 30% of the physicians did not have any specific emergency medicine training. Therefore, none of the emergency physicians were fully trained in emergency medicine. According to 88% of all responders, there is a future for emergency medicine as an independent speciality in the Netherlands, and 35% of all hospitals intend to initiate a training programme for emergency physicians in the future.
Almost all hospitals in the Netherlands reported an increase in the number of patients visiting the Emergency Department, especially in the number of self-referred patients. A majority of the Emergency Departments are now staffed by emergency physicians instead of surgical residents. Developing specific training programmes for emergency physicians should be a priority for the Netherlands in the future.
Academic Medical Centre, Department of Surgery, Amsterdam, the Netherlands
Correspondence to Anna A.W. van Geloven, Churchilllaan 176-II, 1078 ES Amsterdam, the Netherlands
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