Open Access Research article

Crisis discharges and readmission risk in acute psychiatric male inpatients

Dana JH Niehaus1*, Liezl Koen1, Ushma Galal2, Khalid Dhansay1, Piet P Oosthuizen1, Robin A Emsley1 and Esme Jordaan2

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Psychiatry, University of Stellenbosch, South Africa

2 Biostatics Units of the Medical Research Council, Bellville, South Africa

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BMC Psychiatry 2008, 8:44  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-8-44

Published: 17 June 2008



Severe pressures on beds in psychiatric services have led to the implementation of an early ("crisis") discharge policy in the Western Cape, South Africa. The study examined the effect of this policy and length of hospital stay (LOS) on readmission rates in one psychiatric hospital in South Africa.


Discharge summaries of adult male patients (n = 438) admitted to Stikland Psychiatric Hospital during 2004 were retrospectively examined. Each patient's clinical course was then analysed for the period between January 1st, 2004, and August 31st, 2006.


Although shorter LOS was associated with decreased readmission rates, the effect of crisis discharges was far more powerful. Patients discharged as usual had a far lower risk of readmission than those discharged due to bed pressures (i.e. crisis discharge).


Increased risks associated with the early discharge policy necessitate the urgent review of the current management of bed shortages in this inpatient facility. The strengthening of community initiatives, particularly assertive outreach could be a way forward.