The New England Journal of Medicine
August 30, 2001;345:663-668
Lower levels of hospital staffing on weekends may increase the risk of death among patients with some life-threatening disorders.
The study of nearly 3.8 million emergency hospitalizations in Canada found that patients with certain medical conditions were more likely to die if they were admitted on a Saturday or Sunday compared with patients admitted from Monday through Friday.
For instance, patients with a ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm — a tearing in the artery wall that causes potentially fatal bleeding — were 28% more likely to die when they were admitted on a weekend, the investigators found.
Also, patients with pulmonary embolism, in which an artery in the lung is blocked with a clot or other material, or acute epiglottitis, an infection that causes severe swelling of the structure that closes the windpipe when a person swallows, were also at increased risk of death if they were brought to the hospital on a weekend.
The findings support the results of previous studies. The rate of death among infants born on a Saturday or Sunday is slightly higher than the death rate among babies born during the week, for instance, while patients who overdose on drugs may fare worse on the weekends.
The researchers note that working on the weekend is unpopular and that people who work on a Saturday or Sunday may have less experience than those who work during the week.
Dr. Mercola’s Comment:
This is only one of the factors that leads to the conclusion that doctors are the third leading cause of death in the US.
The take home message and obvious word of caution is that individuals who are feeling sick should not delay making phone calls or seeking care until the weekend.
Obviously, one can not “plan” their illnesses, but it would be wise to not electively enter the hospital over the weekend. If you have a sick relative or friend in the hospital, you might want to camp out in their room over the weekend to make sure they don’t fall by the wayside due to hospital staffing issues.