Background: Emergency medicine accounts for a large proportion of medical care in many low- and middle-income countries. A better understanding of the burden of disease will guide training and resource allocation priorities, but lack of electronic medical records and standardised data collection systems makes it difficult to obtain this information. Objectives: To draw attention to the proportionally large burden of trauma in emergency centres (ECs) throughout Eastern Cape Province, South Africa (SA), in the hope of influencing resource allocation and medical provider training protocols accordingly. Methods: A secondary data analysis was performed from information gathered in HIV testing studies in two large tertiary care centres and one regional hospital in the Eastern Cape region of SA. All patients presenting to the ECs during the 6-week study period who met the inclusion criteria were approached and requested to provide consent for point-of-care HIV testing and collection of demographic information. Information collected included patient demographics, presenting complaints and final diagnoses. Simple descriptive statistics were used to analyse the data. Results: Data were collected from 4 271 patients across three study sites: Frere Hospital (n=2 391), Nelson Mandela Academic Hospital (n=622) and Mthatha Regional Hospital (n=1 258). At the two tertiary care centres, most patients were between the ages of 18 and 30 years (41.2% and 32.6%, respectively) and male (57.8% and 60.2%), and 70.4% and 41.5% had traumatic injuries. The most common complaints were stab/gunshot wounds (18.3% and 20.2%). At the district hospital, the majority of patients were female (57.2%), 40.1% were between 18 and 30 years old, and 27.3% presented with traumatic injuries. Stab/gunshot wounds were the second most common complaint (7.2%) after lower respiratory tract infections (8.7%). Conclusions: From the proportion of presenting individuals sampled, we can conclude that a large proportion of care delivered in ECs in the Eastern Cape is for trauma. Local clinical capacitation efforts must focus on trauma training.
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