Emergency department experiences of people who use drugs who left or were discharged from hospital against medical advice

Link to article at PubMed

PLoS One. 2023 Feb 23;18(2):e0282215. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0282215. eCollection 2023.


BACKGROUND: People who use drugs (PWUD) frequent emergency departments at a higher rate than the general population, and experience a greater frequency of soft tissue infections, pneumonia, and chronic conditions such as, HIV/AIDs and hepatitis C. This population has distinct health care considerations (e.g. withdrawal management) and are also more likely to leave or be discharged from hospital against medical advice.

METHODS: This study examines the experiences of PWUD who have left or been discharged from hospital against medical advice to understand the structural vulnerabilities that shape experiences with emergency departments. Semi-structured qualitative interviews were conducted with 30 PWUD who have left or been discharged from hospital against medical advice within the past two years as part of a larger study on hospital care and drug use in Vancouver, Canada.

RESULTS: Findings characterize the experiences and perceptions of PWUD in emergency department settings, and include: (1) stigmatization of PWUD and compounding experiences of discrimination; (2) perceptions of overall neglect; (3) inadequate pain and withdrawal management; and (4) leaving ED against medical advice and a lack of willingness to engage in future care.

CONCLUSIONS: Structural vulnerabilities in ED can negatively impact the care received among PWUD. Findings demonstrate the need to consider how structural factors impact care for PWUD and to leverage existing infrastructure to incorporate harm reduction and a structural competency focused care. Findings also point to the need to consider how withdrawal and pain are managed in emergency department settings.

PMID:36821576 | DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0282215

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