ER Admissions Over Holidays Linked to Higher Death Rates

Hospital in Scotland found public holiday emergency cases more likely to die within a week or month

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THURSDAY, Jan. 24 (HealthDay News) -- Hospital patients admitted as emergency cases on public holidays are more likely to die within the month than those admitted on other days, according to a study from the United Kingdom.

Researchers looked at the seven-day and 30-day death rates among about 20,000 patients admitted as emergencies to a district general hospital in Scotland between 2008 and 2010. About 6 percent of the patients were admitted on public holidays, 77 percent on weekdays and the remainder on weekends.

Overall, 771 patients (3.8 percent) died within seven days of being admitted to the hospital, and 1,780 (8.9 percent) died within 30 days, the investigators reported in the study published online Jan. 24 in the Emergency Medicine Journal.

Nearly 6 percent of the patients admitted on a public holiday died within seven days and about 11 percent of them died within 30 days, versus about 4 percent and nearly 9 percent, respectively, of those admitted on other days, the findings showed.

Compared to patients admitted on weekdays, those admitted on weekends tended to be a bit older, less likely to have cancer and more likely to have a respiratory problem, the authors said in a journal news release. Patients admitted on public holidays were also more likely to have a respiratory problem. Otherwise, there were no distinctive differences between the patients in the study.

There were no differences noted in senior doctor staffing on weekdays and normal weekends. However, public holidays are often part of a three- or four-day weekend, which results in what the study authors called a "cumulative effect" on hospital staffing.

"If we assume that patients with severe illnesses are no more likely to be admitted on any one day of the week than any other, then it becomes difficult to escape the view that a cumulative effect of lack of services and/or lack of doctors on public holidays must have a part to play in the higher public holiday mortality demonstrated in this study," concluded Dr. Sian Finlay, of the Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary in Scotland, and colleagues.

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