Report: Hospital death tolls rise over weekends

Date: Oct 29, 2013

A recent Australian study has confirmed what other studies around the world have shown to be a growing concern: hospital casualty rates are indeed higher over weekend periods, which could lead to more medical negligence cases.

The new research, conducted by the University of New South Wales, is shedding light on a problem that has been around for years, and will require serious work to change. To improve the situation, it could mean a total overhaul of how hospitals go about their staffing.

If these medical centres keep up the current five-day week business plan, people could continue to die unnecessarily during weekend shifts.

"Illness occurs 24/7, not just in normal business hours,'' said lead author Enrico Coiera, the director of the Centre for Health Informatics at the University of New South Wales.

''The idea that we can offer reduced levels of care at the weekend needs to be re-evaluated.''

The results of the study were staggering, showing that some patients may be as much as 15 per cent more likely to die in an emergency if they are admitted any time after midnight on Friday and before midnight on Sunday.

There were 1,101 more deaths related to heart attack, stroke and certain forms of cancer during weekends than the experts predicted. This was most likely due to fewer staff and potentially even worse care during the two-day period.

''We think that people who die from acute heart disease aren't getting access to the emergency services they need. And all their risk is jammed into the first 24 hours,'' Mr Coiera added.

Waiting for Friday could lead to medical negligence

The study authors asserted that it is important not to put off going to hospital until Friday afternoon. The so-called "weekend effect" spreads to several forms of ailments, from emergencies to illnesses and some types of cancers.

This is especially true for anyone in small or rural towns. With many physicians on-call during weekends, the lower staff levels could cause major delays that could mean the difference between life and death.

The results of the study cannot be ignored. More than 25 per cent of all hospital admissions occurred during the weekend, and visits in these two days accounted for 28 per cent of hospital deaths.

Anyone who believes they have been a victim of medical negligence may want to get in touch with a compensation lawyer to determine the next course of action.
 

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