In prior posts I have strongly recommended that, if possible, it is in your best interest not to go into the hospital in the month of July. The month of July is the traditional beginning of a new rotation for the new hospital Residents, or there are an overwhelming number of newly minted doctors with no real experience in charge of your care.  In many cases these new Residents are still learning where the bathrooms are in the hospitals as well as feeling (rightfully) very overwhelmed by their new roles.  This is not a good formula for the best possible care.

Now I must also warn you about weekends, another not ideal time to become an inpatient at a hospital.

There are now studies reveal that if you need to be hospitalized, your chances for substandard, dangerous and expensive care go up on the weekend! According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) the death rate in hospitals increases over weekends.  A British study reported in the Guardian shows that in the UK people admitted to hospitals on the weekend have a higher rate of death than weekday admits.

Clearly, this is a universal issue in both North America and in Europe.

Why the extra deaths? Hospitals are functioning seven days a week, 24 hours a day, but are they really?  Often, specialists may not be available after the usual Monday through Friday, 8 to 5 workday. The staff who run specialized diagnostic or treatment equipment often aren’t on duty over the weekend.

The reality is that patients who are hospitalized over the weekend are actually in a holding pattern for the arrival of Monday morning.  For some of us this holding pattern can be deadly, as we see from the research linked above.

Hospitals need to acknowledge this problem, for many of us they are our last chance at staying alive.  Hey need to re-evaluate how they run their operation; they need to accommodate the real world and our medical problems, not solely the convenience of their staff or their doctors.  Weekends (as a matter of fact this also holds true for nights) do not signal an end to medical problems and they should not signal an end to good healthcare from our hospitals.

Until such time as hospitals acknowledge the issue and move to solve it, we patients need to try and stay away from them on the weekends and the nights.  This means that if we need to schedule surgery it should be earlier in the week so we have time to leave the hospital prior to the weekend.  Despite what I have written, please do not stay away from the hospital in an emergency, seek immediate care in any emergency no matter the time or day of the week.

Joel T Nowak, M.A., M.S.W.