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Is the Weekend the Worst Time to Be Hospitalized in Maine?

ambulance-1334533-m.jpgSurvivors of serious accidents do not always have a choice about what day of the week to go to the hospital in Maine. However, when scheduling surgeries or other treatments that require hospitalization in advance, what days are the best? It turns out that patients who are hospitalized on Friday or the weekend must stay in the hospital longer than those patients who are admitted on other weekdays for the same medical concerns. This can be expensive.

But is this only a financial concern? Actually, no. Patients who have to stay in a hospital setting longer have a higher likelihood of enduring a complication.

Multiple studies have shown that weekend hospitalizations result in a higher likelihood of death. For example, Canadian scientists found that patients who suffer an ischemic stroke and are consequently admitted to the hospital over the weekend are more likely to die within seven days than are those admitted on a weekday and who stay in the hospital only on weekdays. Johns Hopkins also found that older adults hospitalized for head trauma over the weekend are more likely to die than their weekday counterparts — even when their injuries are not as severe.

Similarly, a British study found that those admitted on Sundays had a 16% higher risk of dying. And a study from the Journal of American Medical Association found that those who experience cardiac arrest on nights or weekends are more likely to die in a hospital than those admitted to a hospital on a weekday.

There are a number of theories about why this difference exists. Of course, there is no medical reason for these worse weekend results. The most plausible reasons have to do with the difference between how hospitals operate over the weekend versus how they operate on weekdays.

One reason is that most specialty services are closed during the weekend. There are on-call staff members, but some of them expect to be able to wait until Monday to care for a patient that appears to be stable. Stable patients also stay in their hospital beds with fewer visits from medical staff. It takes more time to treat them and thus their health may continue to deteriorate. They are more likely to experience delirium from the hospital’s bright lights, noises and other elements that disrupt sleep in such a setting. The more time that is spent figuring out a diagnosis and treatment plan, the more likely it is that the patient will be given the wrong medication or get an infection from something or someone in the hospital.

Although the studies point to a weekend effect that harms patients, there are no clear solutions. Robert Pearl, a physician at Kaiser Permanente has offered suggestions on how to decrease the risk. Among these suggestions are for hospitals to schedule some weekday patients on the weekends and spread the staff over seven days so that necessary teams are available every day and not just on weekdays.

Pearl also suggests that medical care be as coordinated on weekends as they are on weekdays — this means that physicians must follow up in the afternoons, rather than waiting until the next day or Monday. He further suggests financial incentives to physicians and medical staff to ensure these changes.

If you are injured in a serious accident, you cannot control whether you will need to stay at the hospital for treatment or the date on which you’re admitted. However, subsequent to any initial hospitalization, you may have to come in for other treatment, procedures or operations. It can be tempting to schedule these for the weekend to avoid missing work. In light of the statistics, however, it is a safer course of action to take the days off and to have the procedure done on a weekday. If there is a complication, weekday scheduling gives you the best chance for a speedy recovery, faster diagnosis and treatment and less time spent around infectious diseases inside hospital walls.

If you or your loved one has been harmed by a negligent doctor in Maine, ask an attorney with medical malpractice experience for help. At Briggs & Wholey, our knowledgeable attorneys are available to answer any questions you may have. To schedule a free consultation with an experienced advocate, please contact Briggs & Wholey, LLC through our website today.

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