Inpatient catchment populations of public sector hospitals in Natal/KwaZulu.
The Natal/KwaZulu Health Services Liaison Committee (HSLC) has been established to co-ordinate health care delivery in Natal and KwaZulu. This body has defined eight geographical Health Planning SubRegions (HPSRs) (Annexure E) of which each is a unit for planning and prioritising health service delivery in respect of its resident population. The HSLC considered that a study of inpatient catchment populations of hospitals under the control of the statutory Health Authorities would provide information which was essential to the planning processes of those authorities. The Department of Community Health was requested by the HSLC to undertake this study. A previous study, co-ordinated by the Department of Community Health (September 1987), dealt with "Outpatient Catchment Populations of Hospitals and Clinics in Natal and KwaZulu" (E DADA). No previous similar study on inpatients has been undertaken in South Africa. The expansion and improvement of basic services - particularly health care, water supply and basic education - should be perceived as essential elements in a strategy designed to enable all residents of a region to meet basic human needs and enjoy a minimum standard of living. Thus increased efforts have to be made to utilise health care resources effectively and efficiently and to plan future facilities carefully with regard to accessibility and appropriateness . This will require careful and objective management by all Authorities responsible for delivering health care to the people of Natal and KwaZulu. Accurately predicting the utilisation of hospital inpatient facilities is critical to efficient resource allocation in Health Services management. Catchment population studies and cross boundary flow characteristics provide valuable information on the utilisation of available facilities. This information is of value in the development of existing health services and the planning of additional health facilities with regard to size, situation and service type. Studies in other areas on utilisation of health service facilities, suggest that distance strongly influences hospital choice in both rural and metropolitan areas (Inquiry 1984 21(1) : 84-95) and this could explain some of the findings of this study with regard to cross boundary flow between Magisterial districts and HPSRs. For the efficient planning of resources, particularly with regard to situation and size, knowledge of the population size and demographic composition are important, as is a knowledge of the profile of disease in a community. The objectives of this study are directed to making available this information to each of the health authorities responsible for health care delivery and thus, to facilitate the management process.
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