Why doctors refer some patients to other hospitals and what it means

Hospital Talk

By Ruth Namutebi 

When you work in a health facility, you can clearly appreciate the need for referrals because this is a daily activity. There are reasons of transferring cases which are beyond the technical competence of a hospital that may need to be handled by institutions of a higher level for better health services.

Patients are usually referred to another facility when there is need for highly skilled manpower and equipment that some facilities may not have.

Normally a written order is issued by the patient’s primary care doctor for you to see a specialist or get certain medical services.  These referrals are important in healthcare because they promote a functional relationship between all levels of the health system, they ensure that patients receive the best possible care at the appropriate level and those in need of specialist services access them in a timely manner.

It is also important for referral hospitals to offer significant support to personnel in lower-level facilities in terms of providing advice, communication and collaboration beyond their own hospital for better working environment.

Apart from those patients whom we treat from within, the rest are referred in purposely for investigations and interpretation by our Radiologist thereafter a report is issued to be sent back to their doctors.

We also receive patients with request forms from the doctors who come for specific laboratory tests which results are issued to them to be taken back to their doctors for interpretation and further management.

Being a major hospital in the area means that one will receive such patients who we ensure that tare guided and sent back to their primary doctors.  However, in certain instances patients change their mind and decide to be treated from within the facility they were referred which may not be so good to the referring doctor and a professional doctor tries to discourage it though we also respect the patients’ rights.

If a patient is seen with very alarming results, medical workers communicate immediately with the referring health worker to allow speedy and better management, this is the reason why the contact details are clearly indicated.

It is important that medical workers follow the right procedures and not undermine the principles.  Patients should be given an opportunity to access the right medical treatment within the shortest time possible.

Like I mentioned earlier, referrals are important to patient care management and as health workers we should not compromise emergency care.  Last Saturday at 1am, I received a call from one of the Medical Centers under our collaboration who had referred a newly born baby to our neo-natal facility.  He was doing his best to save the life of this little one in the wee hours but the mother did not have funds to cover the advance deposit required for this appropriate care which is a requirement.  I stood in as surety for that night and indeed the next day they were able to cover their bill.  However, after examining the baby there was need to refer it to the Pediatric Surgeon for further management.  By nature, appropriate care in a referral hospital will tend to require more complex input and higher skill levels hence will be relatively expensive but this should not jeopardize proper patient care of our people.

After these scenarios many questions came to mind, when should health facilities refer patients, why should some retain a patient who cannot be managed in their facility hence risking people’s lives.  Why not refer to the next level for better management.

Food for thought.

# Stay Safe

The author Ruth NamutebiThe author Ruth Namutebi

Written by: Ruth Namutebi

Patient Care Coordinator

Our Lady of Consolata – Kisubi Hospital

Email: namutebi68@gmail.com


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