Palliative care as a component of universal health care is still evolving in Nigeria and a high proportion of patients with life-limiting illnesses have no access to such essential service. Many of these patients with palliative care needs who present to the emergency department (ED) of hospitals may not receive palliative care. The aim of the study is to evaluate the demographic characteristics of patients with palliative care needs who presented at the ED of the University College Hospital, Ibadan and to check the proportion of these patients that were referred subsequently for palliative care services. This is a retrospective study done by extracting the data of patients with palliative care needs from the 2017 patient attendance records of the ED. This data was compared to the 2017 attendance record of the Department of Hospice and Palliative, University College Hospital. The number of patients identified with palliative care needs in the ED was 740 and the male/female ratio was 1.1. The mean age was 51.3±17.2 years and 41.1% were within the age group of 50-69 years. 70.1% of the patients with palliative care needs had non-cancer illnesses. 557 patients were admitted to the wards, 71 patients were discharged home, 18 got discharged against medical advice, and 94 patients died and no patient was referred directly for palliative care from ED. Presentation of patients with palliative care needs to the ED is inevitable. A palliative care referral system should be available for the best management of these patients.
Key words: Palliative care, emergency department, referral.
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