A very good reason to stay away from hospitals on weekends 15



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There’s never a great time to go to hospital but, if you can manage it, you might want to avoid being admitted on a Saturday or Sunday.

A study of several developed countries’ healthcare systems has revealed that there is a link between higher rates of death for patients admitted to hospital at weekends compared with other days of the week.

Researchers studied international data of almost 3 million admissions between 2009 and 2012 from 28 metropolitan teaching hospitals in England, Australia, USA and The Netherlands.

After taking account of influential factors, they found the risk of dying within 30 days was higher for emergency admissions at weekends at hospitals in three out of the four countries.

This risk was 8 per cent higher in 11 hospitals in England, 13 per cent higher in five of the US hospitals, and 20 per cent higher in six Dutch hospitals.

There was no significant daily variation in the heightened risk of death within 30 days for emergency admissions at weekends in the Australian hospitals, and these hospitals between them had the largest proportion of emergency admissions.

However, when seven-day rather than 30-day death rates were analysed, Australia showed a weekend effect – there was a 1.12 increased risk of dying after a Saturday admission.The authors say a 30-day effect may not have been seen in Australian hospitals because the sample lacked statistical power.

When it came to hospital admissions related to planned or elective surgery, the weekend effect was in place across all countries: all patients admitted at the weekend for planned surgery were more likely to die within 30 days than those admitted on other days of the week.

And it seems the weekend starts early in the Netherlands, which shoed a ‘Friday effect’ – patients undergoing planned surgery in Dutch hospitals were 33 per cent more likely to pass away  if admitted on a Friday than on a Monday.

The researchers speculate on the reasons for the findings, pointing out that no one single factor is going to be responsible.

They suggest that certain diagnoses and procedures may be particularly sensitive to reduced access to test results and diagnostics at weekends. Similarly, weekend staff may be fewer in number and less experienced, while patients requiring urgent care may have to wait longer, which might affect the success of any treatment and interventions.

They suggest the time has come to focus more on shedding light on the causes behind the ‘weekend effect’ rather than just proving its existence across time and space.

“Understanding the weekend effect is an extremely important task since it is large, at about 10 per cent in relative risk terms and 0.4% in percentage point terms. This amounts to about 160 additional deaths in a hospital with 40,000 discharges per year,” they write.

Have you been in hospital over the weekend? Did you notice a difference in service or care? 

Starts at 60 Writers

The Starts at 60 writers team seek out interesting topics and write them especially for you.

  1. It doesn’t surprise me, having had to wait for X-rays, specialists and other testing till weekdays. I saw an interesting article on organ donation too. If you are on the donor list but inconveniently choose to die late at night or the weekend in many hospitals there are no facilities to harvest your organs. Some may be used but others may be unviable by the time a team is assembled.

  2. I unfortunately broke my wrist on a Friday. It was the weekend of a major car race in the city and combined with normal weekend casualities I was prepped and “bumped off” surgery every day for a full week finally getting to thearte the following Saturday after I threatened to check out.
    Won’t ever schedule any procedure to fall during weekend.

  3. I have been the unlucky one on many occasions over the years,to take friends and relatives to emergency. I wish they would do a study on the “Friday effect” here. My daughter arriving with severe chest pains wasn’t even looked at by a doctor,only given Panadol ,and chose to go home by 7am! It turned out to be a gall bladder attack,but I was absolutely appalled by the lack of care. Less dramatic has happened,but still total lack of care,many patients just choosing to go home. Talk about third world!!

  4. If our hospitals paid their medical staff more then maybe we would have the staff needed but its like police,fire ambulance and emergency staff none get paid enough so that has to be because our pollies get the money that should go to those who actually work for it

  5. The staff are there – they are not reduced – but the number of admissions goes up because of the drunken,drugged morons who get themselves injured and clog the beds, also the selfish idiots who attend with VERY minor problems – “because they can” . If they come through the door they have to be processed and seen – that takes a lot of time away from those who genuinely need the service . It would have helped reduce the wait if a charge was made to attend ED but no, everyone was outraged at the thought. It would not have applied to pensioners but some MP’s thought it would make them look good to refuse it. Sure none of the services are paid enough for the s—t they have to deal with but they are doing the best they can.

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  6. Where I live you can’t get sick on weekends cause our hospital had no doctors from when it was built till now and we have a doctor now who should have retired years ago, thanks government .

  7. Hospitals should have all facilities available Monday to Sunday without variation. The rise in population needs it, more jobs and better care would the result of not having a weekend. There would be less fatigue by medical staff and less errors, they could work 4 days per week which would enhance their functioning therefore med full med staff 4 days and then full med staff 3 days

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    • See my comments Jenny Crowley – they DO . Glad you know where to get the staff from as well – there are plenty of health care jobs available and nowhere near enough staff to fill them. Which is why every January ( in my last hospital at least) they import nurses from India and China – some of whom have very poor English.You obviously have no idea either of how many times nurses work a double shift because someone is off sick – that is dangerous, no-one denies it – but if they didn’t do it the results would be even worse than having to wait for a bed or wait for xrays.Perhaps you should offer your services to do the rosters as you are so good at working out what to do.

  8. Having worked in emergency areas of hospitals for 30 plus years it does not surprise me at all!

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