Original articles

The effectiveness of the South African Triage Score (SATS) in a rural emergency department

K Rosedale, Z A Smith, H Davies, D Wood


Background. The Modified Early Warning Score (MEWS) is used to monitor medical inpatients in hospitals in the developed world. The South African Triage Score (SATS) was developed from the MEWS, and its use throughout South Africa has been proposed.
Objectives. We aimed to assess the effectiveness of the SATS in an emergency department (ED) in a rural setting in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).
Methods. A prospective cross-sectional study undertaken over a 1-month period in June 2009 of patients in the ED of a government hospital in rural KZN, the referral centre for 22 peripheral hospitals. Data capture included physiological parameters, mobility and trauma scores, a list of selected clinical conditions (physician discriminator list), MEWS and SATS scores, final clinical diagnosis, and outcome in the ED (death, hospital admission or discharge). Outcome measures were under- and over-triage rates according to both systems.
Results. Over the study period, 589 patients were triaged and their data analysed. The MEWS under-triaged 15.1% (over-triaged 8.3%) of cases that needed admission, compared with an under-triage rate of 4.4% (over-triage rate 4.3%) when the SATS was used.
Conclusion. Our study supports use of the SATS as a primary triage score in South African urban and rural hospitals. The SATS is superior to the MEWS as a triage scoring system in a rural hospital ED in KZN, its rates of under- and over-triage falling within the limits of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma (ACSCOT) guidelines.

Authors' affiliations

K Rosedale, Anaesthetic Trainee, UK

Z A Smith, Royal Hampshire County Hospital, Winchester

H Davies, Edinburgh Royal Infirmary

D Wood, Ngwelezane Hospital, Empangeni, Kwazulu Natal

Full Text



Triage, Rural Medicine, Early Warning Scores, Over-triage, Under-triage

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2011;101(8):537-540.

Article History

Date submitted: 2010-12-06
Date published: 2011-07-25

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