Hospitals No Less Safe on Weekends
Fri Sep 13, 4:06 PM ET

FRIDAY, Sept. 13 (HealthScoutNews) -- If you end up in a hospital intensive care unit (ICU) on a weekend, there's no need to worry about the level of care you'll receive because there are fewer hospital staff on duty.

Researchers at the University of Iowa and the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Iowa City found the risk of death for people admitted to ICUs from Friday to Monday was 9 percent higher than the risk for people admitted from Tuesday to Thursday.

They also found the hospital stays of people admitted to the ICU Friday through Monday were about 4 percent longer than the hospital stays of people admitted mid-week.

However, those differences probably have more to do with the condition of the patients than with hospital staffing levels, the researchers say.

Their study, published in a recent issue of Medical Care, tracked 156,136 people admitted to 38 ICUs in 28 northeast Ohio-area hospitals from 1991 to 1997.

"It turned out that most of the differences were relatively small with respect to mortality and length of stay. We believe those differences were due to the acuity, or severity, of patients' illnesses, not to staffing," says study co-author Dr. Gary Rosenthal, a professor of internal medicine at the University of Iowa.

This finding challenges the results of a Canadian study published last year that said people were more at risk if they were admitted to hospital on a weekend.

More information

The Ohio Hospital Association has more on workforce issues.

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