Background and objectives. The number of foreigners using
emergency departments has risen in recent years. The aim of this
study was to assess the management of Latin American users,
above all Ecuadorian, of an emergency departments by analysing
the main reasons for access to the emergency departments,
the triage codes assigned and the attitudes and behaviours of
healthcare personnel towards foreign nationals, particularly
those classifiable as foreigners temporarily present.
Methods. The management model was examined through the
analysis of medical data, field observation and semi-structured
interviews conducted in Spanish regarding sociodemographic,
socioanthropological and healthcare issues.
Results. Latin Americans accounted for 7.51% of the total
number of users of the emergency departments; 50.91% were
classifiable as foreigners temporarily present. The triage codes
assigned to these patients have a high percentages of white
(19.75%) and green (69.81%) codes. Patients with foreigners
temporarily present status showed high rates of requests for prescriptions
and examinations (85.19%), gynaecological problems
(69.90%), fever (64.04%), abortion/pregnancy-related requests
(56.77%) and leave without being seen (63.91%).
Conclusions. The study revealed that foreigners temporarily
present look to the emergency departments for non-urgent
services, as this is the only facility to which they are entitled
to refer for medical treatment. This fact underlines the need to
reform healthcare legislation in such a way as to entitle every
foreigner to be treated by a Family Physician; this would reduce
both waiting times in the emergency departments and the irritation
of medical personnel who are called upon to deal with non-urgent cases.