Publication date: Sep 22, 2023
The incidence of discharge against medical advice (DAMA) in emergency departments (EDs) among Indigenous people is a growing concern in Australia. This study aimed to determine the incidence of ED DAMA in public hospitals in Queensland (QLD) from 2016 to 2021 and investigate the disparities in ED DAMA between Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients. The study also assessed the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the incidence of ED DAMA. A descriptive epidemiological study was conducted using aggregated data from QLD public hospital EDs. The data was retrieved from Clinical Excellence QLD, Healthcare Improvement Unit, in the QLD Health Open Data Portal for the period 1 January 2016 to 31 December 2021. Incidence rates and unadjusted odds ratios were calculated and compared using the chi-square test to identify differences between Indigenous and non-Indigenous patients. The annual incidence of DAMA in EDs was 7. 7% among Indigenous patients, compared to 4. 8% among non-Indigenous patients, with the highest rate (8. 9%) reported in 2021 among Indigenous patients. The incidence of ED DAMA was higher for Indigenous patients in major cities (20. 0%) than in very remote areas (7. 4%). Patients in triage categories 4 (10. 0%) and 3 (7. 3%) accounted for the vast majority of ED DAMA events among Indigenous patients. The acute group A hospitals had the highest incidence of ED DAMA (10. 9% for Indigenous patients and 6. 5% for non-Indigenous patients). The COVID-19 pandemic had no impact on the incidence of ED DAMA. Indigenous patients experience a disparity in ED DAMA incidence. Addressing this issue requires collaborative efforts from healthcare providers, policymakers, and community organizations.