Utilization profile of emergency department by irregular migrants and hospitalization rates: Lessons from a large urban medical center in Tel Aviv, Israel

S. Shachaf, N. Davidovitch, P. Halpern, Z. Mor

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: Irregular migrants (IMM) are excluded from the National health insurance in most developed countries and may use the emergency department (ED) as a source for medical care. This study aims to compare the use of ED by IM with that of Israeli citizens (IC) in a large urban hospital in Tel Aviv, including socio-demographic characteristics, hospitalization proportion and medical conditions on admission. Methods: This cross-sectional study included all IM and IC patients older than 18 years who attended the ED between 2007 and 2011, and compared their socio-demographic characteristics, the administrative details of the visit and clinical variables upon admission. Hospitalization proportion was calculated by dividing the number of patients who were admitted to the hospital ward by the number of all patients who attended the ED. Results: IM who attended the ED were younger compared to IC (mean 39 ± 17 versus 52 ± 22 years, respectively), mostly males (1.4 Male/Female ratio) and mainly originated from developing countries. IM were more commonly self-referred, more likely to attend the ED during evening hours and weekends, complained of occupational injuries and frequented the surgical rather the medical ward of the ED compared with IC. IM stayed at the ED for longer periods than IC, yet the proportion of their hospitalization was lower than that of IC (19.4% versus 23.5%, respectively). Conclusion: IM stayed in the ED for longer periods and were less likely to be admitted to the hospital wards, suggesting presentation of non-severe medical conditions or possible barriers in ensuring care continuity in the community following discharge. Minimizing the barriers of IM to primary care in the community can reduce unnecessary referrals to the ED. Additionally, hospitals managements should respond to the high-volume of IM by shifting staff to busy hours and improving the communication with IM.

Original languageEnglish
Article number56
JournalInternational Journal for Equity in Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - 29 Apr 2020


  • Emergency department
  • Health insurance
  • Immigration
  • Israel
  • Undocumented migrants

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health Policy
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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