Objectives: To examine the accessibility and quality of care received in emergency departments by Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people compared with other Australians.
Methods: We examined 2004-05 data from the National Non-admitted Patient Emergency Department Care database from the Northern Territory and Western Australia, the only jurisdictions where Indigenous identification in the database was considered acceptable.
Results: In the NT, Indigenous people were 1.7 times as likely to present to an emergency department as non-Indigenous people. Indigenous patients in the NT and WA do not appear to use EDs for “primary care” problems more than non-Indigenous patients. More NT Indigenous patients walked out before being seen or before their treatment was completed. However, Indigenous patients generally waited a similar time, and often slightly shorter, to be seen as similar non-Indigenous patients in WA and the NT.
Conclusions: We recommend the regular monitoring of equity in the accessibility and quality of ED care for Indigenous people compared with other Australians. Indigenous identification in the database needs to improve so monitoring of ED performance can extend beyond WA and the NT.